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Les Roseaux Sauvages Review

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Terrorist attacks provide a backdrop to a tale of adolescent discovery in provincial France.

★★★★★

Rites of passage movies may be two a penny in Hollywood, but this French feature offers a unique twist. Here, the pangs of adolescent growth are played against the background of 1962 provincial France, with the independence of Algeria freshly declared, and attacks by terrorist groups a hazard of everyday life.

Yet this political scenario is swiftly replaced by an intense but wholly approachable tale focusing on a menage a trois (and occasional quatre) among sexually ambivalent teenagers.

Director Techine, whose last movie was Ma Saison Preferee with Catherine Deneuve, here plumps for a cast of young unknowns, with Gorny the most effective as natural outsider Henri, an estranged, Algerian-born French lad who considers all his fellow countrymen to be traitors.

For most of the time, though, Techine prefers to dwell on the homoerotic fumblings between confused young Francois (Morel) and hunk of his dreams Serge (Stephane Rideau), who in turn fancies budding beauty Maite (Bouchez). She, meanwhile, clearly feels jealous of Serge's ambivalent attractions and takes poor Francois down a peg or two with a smattering of tasty insults of the "You're an immature, bourgeois faggot!" variety.

Not exactly Neighbours, then, but this oh-so-Gallic sexual teenage merry-go-round does nothing to offend, everything being done so tastefully. Indeed, that's half the problem.

While it's all very pleasant watching these undecided pubescents frolic in the lake in their undies, there's a distinct lack of real drama or purpose in the self-indulgent, humourless proceedings.