Les Roseaux Sauvages ( The Wild Reeds)

Director: Andre Techine

Confirming Andre Techine’s re-emergence as one of France’s leading directors, Les Roseaux Sauvages cleaned up at the last Cesar awards (the French equivalent to the Oscars), winning prizes for both best film and best director. The accomlades are well deserved, for this richly evocative yet wholly unsetimetal drama is a profoundly honest exploration of some contentious personal and political issues.
The setting is a school in the south west of France during 1962. The Algerian war of independence is still raging, sending shock waves through an ostensiblly quiet community and exerting a troubling influence on a very misxed group of adolescents who are also grappling with the more familiar confusions and doubts of that difficult transitional phase in life between childhood and adulthood.
Francois (Gael Morel) is torn between his friendship with Maite (Elodie Bouchez, the daughter of the school’s Communist teacher. Matters are complicated by the arrival of Henri (Federic Gorny, an intelligent older kid who was born in Algeria aand is bitterly opposed to independence. The baleful, fervently militant Henri acts as a catalyst, disrupting the routing of the school and forcing the other young charcters to confront their deepest beliefs and passions.
This skiful handling of what Techine has described as tiny moments within the larger ones called history is one of the outstanding qualities of Les Roseaux Sauvages. Another strength is the wonderfully naturalistic performances by the young cast, which only goes to prove that Techine doesn’t need the big stars of his last film, Ma Saison Preferee, to deliver an emotional punch.
At a time when French cinema seems to have lost its bearings as well as its ability to strike out in new directions, Techine appears to have rediscovered himself in this bracig look into the not too distant past. Les Roseaux Sauvages is a wonderful achievement.

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