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July 10, 2005

Le Peril Jeune

Cedric Klapisch - 1994
French Region 2 DVD

I have to wonder why Cedric Klapisch wasn't introduced to U.S. audiences earlier. I also have to wonder why his earlier films aren't available in Region 1 DVDs. Le Peril Jeune is a very accessible film, very much in the tradition of I Vitelloni and Diner.

The young men in this film are younger than their cinematic predecessors, being Parisian high school seniors. The film has been given the English title of Good Old Daze which is somewhat suggestive of the general confusion encountered by the characters. The film's title literally translates as The Young Danger which may be more representative of how the characters see themselves.

The majority of the film is told in flashback. Four men meet in the maternity ward awaiting the birth of the child of their friend, Tomasi, who has recently died of a drug overdose. Except for a barely remembered reunion three or four years previously, the four had last been together in school, in 1975. In the days leading up to the baccalaureate exams required to graduate and to qualify for possible college, the five confront the conflict between the ties that keep bind the friendship, and the needs to take responsibility for their future selves.

One of Klapisch's little jokes that while the friends meet ten years after high school, the film's main musical theme is by the band Ten Years After. The song used, I'm Going Home suggests a headlong rush to the past. The songs used in the film, by Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Steppenwolf were all from the late sixties. One of the scenes shows the students involved in a strike that is broken up by police with tear gas. With the scenes of political discussions and activities of the students, the film seems to convey a sense of nostalgia for 1968, when rock music truly seemed to matter, students and workers were unified against the government, when being a hippie was considered a career option. The youthful nostalgia based on a previous generations' experience is echoed when one of the characters mentions having seen Amarcord, Fellini's fanciful recreation of his own childhood.

Klapisch is clearly a filmmaker who loves his characters no matter whether they are smart or stupid, funny or boorish. While his films are lighter than than those of his contemporaries, Klapisch has been thematically consistent in his stories of families or a group of outsiders that bond as a temporary family. With acknowledgment to Truffaut and Godard, Klapisch continues the youthful spirit of the early Nouvelle Vague.

For those who can read French or wish to trust computer translations, Klapisch has his own website

Posted by peter at July 10, 2005 03:49 PM