This resonant, engrossing 1994 film by André Téchiné (Thieves) is an unusual coming-of-age story set at a French boarding school in 1962, when news of France's war in Algeria is still plentiful. Téchiné focuses on a handfu... more »l of students, measuring their transition into adulthood against the reality of love, sex, and the war's controversial cost. Strikingly sensitive and sophisticated, beautifully dramatized, and perfectly acted by a young cast, the film feels like one of those universal touchstones for the final days of childhood grace. Téchiné's typically blunt-but-gentle manner is perfectly suited for this tale of youthful gains and losses. --Tom Keogh« less
"This enagaging coming-of-age French movie revolves round a sort of unrequited/forbidden love triangle (or quadrangle?) between four adolescents at boarding school in southwest France. This 1994 multi-Cesar Awards winner made stars of its talented young cast, notably the two cute lead actors, Elodie Bouchez and Gael Morel. Who, like their characters here, are good friends also in real life and have worked together on a number of movies since. For me, the intimate-yet-platonic relationship as "best friends" Francois and Maite is really frustrating. As in my opinion they make such a cute couple. (Luckily, Gael and Elodie make amends for this by jumping into bed together in "Le Plus Bel Age", the film they acted in together after this one.) Anyway, by the end of this movie, you feel like you have grown up a little bit with these young teenagers, and a sense that their innocent age has passed by. The soundtrack is also nice, with Johann Strauss's Voices of Spring waltz, Barber's Adagio for Strings and some well-known 1960s American pop music. And thank goodness this video keeps the original French language soundtrack, especially as subtleties and expression of dialogue always get lost in translation."
Sexual coming of ager
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 05/27/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The slightly loose and episodic feel of this charming coming-of-ager doesn't matter because the characters and the conflicts are so well presented that we are enthralled throughout.Three boys on the verge of manhood (with the French-Algerian conflict smoldering in the background) are in residence at a boarding school in the south of France in 1962. One is gay, the second is bi-sexual and the third is straight. Through their interactions we (and they) discover their sexuality.Francois Forestier, played attractively by Gael Morel, is gay as he discovers one night when Serge Bartolo (Stephane Rideau), an athletic schoolmate with a natural style, awakens his sexuality by seducing him. For Serge it is just a school age sexual adventure; for Francois it is love so intense he is transformed. The third boy, Henri Mariana, who is from Algeria, is a little older and a little more cynical. He finds heterosexual love with his enemy, Maité Alverez, who is a hated communist. Elodie Bouchez, whom I recall from The Dreamlife of Angels (1998) for which she shared a Cannes Best Actress award, plays Maité whose style is earnest, witty and brave.As it happens I was in France during the period of this film, and a teenager as well. The Algerian conflict haunted the young men because as soon as they were of age they could be sent away to fight. Also the Communist Party was strong in France and an attraction to some who opposed what they saw as French colonialism in Algeria and Vietnam. Director André Téchiné who characteristically explores human sexuality in his films (e.g., Rendez-Vous (1985) with a young and vital Juliette Binoche; Le lieu du crime (1986) with Catherine Deneuve; and Ma Saison Préférée (1993) also starring Catherine Deneuve) attempts to integrate these larger issues into his film but I don't think is entirely successful. Serge's older brother is killed in Algeria and his teacher blames herself for not helping him to escape his military service and suffers a nervous breakdown. However this story is not well-connected with the rest of the film. Also more could have been done with the divergent views of Maité and Henri. What I loved was the club scene where suddenly the French girls are twisting to Chubby Checker's "Let's Twist Again" which propelled me back to 1962 when indeed the Twist was all the rage in France.What makes this film superior is the warm and truthful way in which the sexual awakenings are realized. The kids seem absolutely real and the dialogue is sharp and authentic. Morel is very winning. I especially liked the earnest way he confronts and then accepts his sexuality. Interesting was the scene in which he seeks out the shoe salesman whom he knows is gay for his advice on how he should cope with unrequited homosexual love. This is a film about young people for open-minded adults attractively done. For many it will strike a strong cord of recognition."
'Wild Reeds' bends and does not break!
Billy J. Hobbs | Tyler, TX USA | 06/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For cinema buffs, this film is probably Andre Techine's best (although `Thieves' comes close). Released in 1994, the movie won four Cesar Awards, including Best Picture. That said, it's a great film anyway! Techine incredibly evokes--and captures--the landscape and atmosphere, the tonal integrity, the dynamic symmetry of the French countryside, his actors, and time sequence in a way that few can. Certainly, this film is a tribute to film-making, regardless of nationality. Set in 1962 when all France was abuzz and alerted to the Algerian war and crisis, Techine micromanages the time/place/conflict into a boarding school setting. And while, indeed, it is a "coming of age" story in good form, cinema as art is not lost on Techine (nor generally the French!). Featuring praiseworthy performances of Iodie Bouchez and Gael Morel, the film dwells on, but not exclusively, their relationship--which is not without its trauma, drama, and poignancy. The two boysacknowledge their deep-rooted relationship, which is beauty itself. Unfortunately, love does not conquer all, as the romanticists would have us believe (and the vicious politics of the time rears its ugly head too often). Clearly, Techine's juxtaposition of their relationship--sexual and otherwise--is beautifully and sensitively done. The soundtrack, too, is worthy of praise (even the American pop music lends to the film's credence). Viva la France. And Techine. (Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)"
Greg Allup | Torrance, California United States | 06/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wild Reeds is a nice movie portraying adolescence and sexuality during a time of difficult politics in France during the early nineteen sixties. Francious(Gael Morel)is the lead character along with his platonic girlfriend Maite (Elodie Bouchez). The two are best friends, but Francious starts experimenting and coming to terms with his sexulaity when he comes to having sexual feelings for his classmate Serge (Stephane Rideau). This is basically the plot of the film with Francious yearning to be in a realtionship with Serge and dealing with the complications from his realtion with Maite. A typical French movie Wild Reeds is not a tawdry, action packed, sexually explicit film. It is a simple story of teenagers exploring sexuality through a rather difficult time. The cast is good and for those that are in to cute young men will find the two male leads appealing and sexy in the scenes where they are half dressed. If you liked this film you should definitely see sexy Stephane Rideau in the recently released Come Undone. A great film!"
It goes where "Jules and Jim" didn't dare
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 03/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One girl and three guys--it does J&J one better. I always wondered why Jules and Jim bothered with "the girl" at all when they were obviously one another's true soul mates. Although WILD REEDS is not a gay film, it does have one gay character who has a couple of classmates who seem to be either bisexual or open to experimentation. The four adolescent leads in this movie are struggling with their sense of being an outsider, which seems to be a universal for boys and girls, straights and gays alike. At the same time that they are trying to come to terms with their sexual natures, they are developing a sense of their place in the world. Each of them is affected by the political issues of their day (the war in Algeria), the struggle against authoritarian school teachers, and the expectations of their families. What I found appealing about the way the characters were portrayed and developed is that each one seems to receive equal treatment, has an equal share of grief and confusion, and is equally susceptible to normal human foibles. To wish that the story lines were more resolved at the end of the film would be to ask that this thoughtful little movie be something it was not meant to be--a splashy, big-budget Hollywood film totally ungrounded in human reality."