Wild Reeds (1994)
Directed by Andre Techine
Cast: Gael Morel, Elodie Bouchez, Stephane Rideau, Frederic Gorney, Michele Moretti, Jacques Nolot, Eric Kreikenmayer.
1994 110 minutes - French - Subtitled
Rated: [NR] (equivalent of an R for sexual situations, profanity, and nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 1998.
"Wild Reeds" directed by Andre Techine, was the best film of 1994, and one of, if not my favorite, foreign-language film I have seen.
This beautifully made French film is set in 1962, and revolves around four teenagers. At the center of the story is Francois (Gael Morel), a rather shy, introverted young man who is staying at a boarding school. When a new student, Serge (Stephane Rideau), who is a much more rebellious person, comes to stay at the school, they become friends, and to Francois' shock, finds Serge in his bed late one night. After this encounter, Serge strays farther away from him, and it is apparent that he is not interested in a relationship, but he leaves Francois utterly confused about his own sexuality. Also a large part of the story is Maite (Elodie Bouchez), Francois' long-time female best friend, who obviously has deep feeling for him, and the oldest student at the boarding school, Henri (Frederic Gorny), who is about to turn 21, and has purposefully failed each year because he is afraid to face the "real world."
Something I have noticed lately is that the characters in American films almost always act like immature children, and in most foreign films, the characters are infinitely more intelligent and interesting people. "Wild Reeds" proves this point to a T, even though these characters are still in high school. This motion picture is full of such truth and honesty, that it is in another league with most films that are made nowadays.
Regardless of what the film is about, it is not a "gay" film, and the film is far too complex for it to be labeled such a thing. Instead, it is about the uncertainties and insecurities of growing up, and the picture understands and cares about the characters so much that the audience can't help but do the same thing. Also, all of the characters are written to be fully-developed, living-and breathing human beings, and they are helped even more by the amazingly mature performances from its cast, particularly Morel and Bouchez, who have a large future in films. Incidentally, Bouchez was awarded the Best Actress prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival for a yet-to-be-released French film. There are moments within the film that involves these characters that are full of such unblinking reality and intelligence that there is no way it could be a "mainstream" American picture.
Another highlight of "Wild Reeds" is its music, which is filled with several 60's hits, such as "Barbara Anne" and "Runaway." Although this may, at first, sound a bit strange, since this film is in subtitles, it only adds to the realism since in France in the 1960's American pop songs were no doubt popular, and they fit perfectly into the story.
The conclusion of "Wild Reeds" is splendid, as it brings together all of these characters and story threads, and all of the predicaments are dealt with. And yet...very little is solved, except that, I sense, the characters have grown quite a bit as people and have learned about themselves. In this sense, it is just like real life, because not everything is always resolved and wrapped up within two hours. Instead, "Wild Reeds" leaves you thinking and pondering about what lies ahead for these four people, even after the end credits. Judging from the film itself, their lives will not be a bed of roses, but they will make it through everything quite alright, I'm sure.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman