Mes petites amoureuses
DIRECTOR: Jean Eusatche | WRITER: Jean Eustache | CAST: Martin Loeb, Jacqueline Dufranne, Ingrid Craven, Dionys Mascolo, Henri Martinez | France
A year in the life of a clever if not especially brilliant 12-year-old boy who lives with his widowed grandmother in a small town in the Limousin countryside until his rather flighty mother sends for him to live with her and her gruff, Spanish, farm-laborer boyfriend in Narbonne. Not a whole lot happens: he’s obsessed with girls but too young to know how to proceed; his mother doesn’t send him to school as he’d expected but instead to work for no pay for her boyfriend’s brother in a moped repair shop; he falls in with slightly older teenaged boys who have some experience with girls; and he slowly gains some experience — and even more important, some confidence — with girls himself; and then he’s sent back to his grandmother.
Mes petites amoureuses was apparently the film Jean Eustache always wanted to make, but I can’t say that I immediately warmed to it and even after watching it twice I’m not sure how I feel about it. The obvious point of reference for a film of this sort is Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel films, and perhaps Mes petites amoureuses can be understood as an homage/sequel of sorts to The 400 Blows, and there’s the obvious debt to the New Wave in general (it comes through loud and clear when the boy finally scores with a girl his own age at the movies; true to the New Wave, it’s not just any movie but Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, which we get to see a few minutes of) and that may be so, but Eustache’s obvious main stylistic influence is Robert Bresson. Bresson’s influence is so obvious, in fact, that it really irritated me and I’ve had to step back. But there’s something else in the film that’s hooked me and I don’t know what it could be. I’ll have to come back to this film down the road some time and see if I can get a better handle on it. Until then, the acting is of the Bressonian non-acting school, but what works for Bresson (most of the time), doesn’t really work that well for Eustache. Martin Loeb, the actor who plays Daniel (whose name we don’t learn until the very end of the movie), is not a particularly good actor and he tries too hard; his movements don’t flow naturally but instead look like he’s rehearsing them to himself. Well, I’ll just have to leave this review as it is and come back to it in a few months.