Sunday, March 27, 2016

Flare: La belle saison

The closing night film at Flare was La belle saison (Summertime) (dir Catherine Corsini), which I'd seen some weeks back at a press screening. At the time I found it initially dazzling, losing its verve mid-way through. But, a lovely film. I was struck, though, reading a Twitter comment after the screening last night that it lacked a "lesbian happy ending". Hmm, I thought, it didn't end badly for the protagonists, did it? (spoiler alert) Nobody died.

But, what the viewer probably meant is that the two protagonists, Carole, a sophisticated feminist activist, and Delphine, a younger farm girl, don't end the film by running into one another's arms. True. But, this film is largely about recognising the specificity of existence. Aside from the age difference, the two women come from quite distant backgrounds and the film is set in 1971, when social mores were being prodded from many directions. Geography is important in this film, with Delphine constantly commenting on how different things are, how she's never been this far from home, as she soaks up the vibrant energy of the cause and the thrilling women she is meeting.

For me, the best scene is when the women decide to spring a gay man from an institution where he's been sent to be "cured". The film palls when it deposits Delphine back on the farm to care for her ailing father. Then it becomes more of a family melodrama with typical quandaries: will Delphine tell her family she and Carole are lovers? How will they react? I found this a bit drama by numbers, in contrast to the Paris section where the women are meeting, debating, planning and acting. The ending, by the way, finds the women some years on knowing quite a bit more about themselves and what they need in life. So, it may not be a Hollywood happy ending, but it's a pretty good resolution.

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