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January 31, 2006

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

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My Summer of Love
Pawel Pawlikowski - 2004
Universal Pictures Region 1 DVD

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L'Effrontee
Claude Miller - 1985
Wellspring Region 1 DVD

Every once in a while one sees films that almost mirror each other, if unintentionally, either within a short period of time, or in this case, back-to-back. In addition to both films in this article being primarily about the relationship between a working class girl and a girl from a background of wealth who is also a musician, both films have scenes involving a globe, and borrowed clothes. Both films refer to The Exorcist, reminding us how deep the cultural impact is after thirty years. Both films also have the overly idealized relationship ending badly, but with the girl who's left behind still finding a personal victory.

My Summer of Love, like Pawel Pawlikowski's first film, The Last Resort is concerned with the idea of home. The title for that film is a pun with a Russian woman finding herself stranded in an English vacation community off-season after not being met by her fiance. My Summer of Love begins with Mona feeling displaced from her home, an apartment she shares with her suddenly born-again brother who has converted their parents' pub into meeting place for fellow believers. After a chance meeting with Tamsin, Mona finds herself living as a houseguest and eventual lover with the worldlier girl. The faith Mona's brother, Phil, displays is as overwhelming as Mona's belief that she and Tamsin will actually run away to live together. Throughout the film, characters are confronting each other in the name of an illusive and subjective truth. Even when Mona and Tamsin laugh at Phil, Pawlikowski displays respect for the sincere act of faith, whether it is Mona and Tamsin "communicating" with a dead spirit, or Phil and a group of Christians carrying a very large cross up a hill to overlook their small town. For Pawlikowski, the conclusion is that before attempting to be honest with anyone else, one needs to be honest with one's self.

Being about somewhat younger girls, L'Effrontee details a deep infatuation of one girl for another. A former associate to Godard, Demy and Bresson, Claude Miller has made a film that self-consciously invokes the spirit of Francois Truffaut. The Nouvelle Vague connection is further stressed with the casting of Bernadette Lafont and Jean-Claude Brialy. The distaff Antoine Doinel is Charlotte, played by the then 13-year-old Charlotte Gainsbourg. The long-legged, awkward Charlotte sees the blonde and conventionally pretty Clara, a piano prodigy, on television. The daughter of a tool-maker meets Clara by chance when Clara is staying near Charlotte's provincial village. For Charlotte, Clara would provide a means of escaping the perceived limitations of her home. For Clara, normally surrounded by adults, Charlotte provides temporary friendship with a girl of her own age. In trying to establish her independence and sense of attractiveness, Charlotte also gets involved with a young sailor who is also in town briefly. Used in the film's opening credits is a song that conspicuously sounds like Cindy Lauper's big hit. The DVD also includes an interview with a very shy Gainsbourg who could not imagine being the respected actress she is today.

Posted by peter at January 31, 2006 02:00 PM