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Jeunesse doree

An actress who has turned her hand to directing, Zaida Ghorab-Volta’s second feature is an attractive coming-of-age story about two girls in their late teens who flee the restrictions of inner city life and embark on a trip that takes them to the Pyrenees. Gwenaelle (Alexandra Jeudon) is a shy 17-year-old brunette, while her friend Angela (Alexandra Laffandre) is a skinny blonde who exudes a stylish passion for life. Both girls live in a Paris satellite town that offers them little excitement or satisfaction. The pair embark on an art project to photograph buildings and their inhabitants, eventually securing a grant that allows them to hit the road and explore France. Out in the country, the inquisitive girls meander through small provincial towns, enjoying the slower pace of life and a series of chance meetings with friendly locals. The buildings they chose to photograph are in balance with nature, unlike the geometric urban grid of their home environment. For the most part, though, Ghorab-Volta manages to avoid cliches about the oppressive city and the supposed freedom of the countryside. She also refuses to oversimplify the emotional and sexual development of her young protagonists. At one point the girls split up to pursue romance with two young men, and the episode momentarily threatens to cause a rift in the girls’ friendship. When Gwenaelle and Angela get back out on the road, having weathered the storm, the film has earned the note of joyful release on which it ends.
France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 85 mins.

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