"Just About Love?", "Analog Days": Because You're Young By Léo Soesanto
by Leo Soesanto
Several films of the LIFFE (The Ljubljana International Film Festival) selection dealt with youth, from accomplished directors (Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park) to newcomers (Lucia Puenzo’ XXY) from all over the world. Why? “Because you’re young”, David Bowie sings (on Scary Monsters album) and because this age necessarily deals with life, love, change, beauty (or not) and fear. Among these films, Lola Doillon’s Just About Love? (Et toi, t’es sur qui?) isn’t probably the most aesthetically or thematically ambitious one. Despite, or because of its faults (i.e. the sitcom-like feeling), the film manages to charm by its freshness and modesty. Teenagers can be viewed as an aerial mystery (Van Sant) or an organic weirdness (Puenzo). It is also defined by potential, yet-to-come shapes and promises: these words apply to Doillon’s film.
The film starts from an American-Pie-type teen comedy situation. School’s out and summer is near. Elodie, Julie, Vincent and Nicolas are good friends, and also obsessed by losing their virginity before the holidays. They’ll discover bizarre love triangles (even squares) and that the line between friendship and love can be very thin. The (double) meaning of the French title implies that laws of attraction shape an economy of cruelty: “and you, who are you dating”? or “and you, who are you on top of”? Sources of comedy and absurdity come from choosing the one or more language codes (they speak young modern French slang and use MSN). Doing it does not lead to what is expected; it even denies pleasure. This is only about who did the thing first and making it public. Doillon’s view is very sharp and cunningly makes the teens do an internship in a butcher’s shop, where flesh is, of course, cold and weak. The actors, touching newcomers, are wonderful.
Another teen film worthy of attention in the selection is an independent American feature, Analog Days. Like Doillon’s film, it raises issues (Is it TV? Is it cinema?), given that it owes much to a US cult teen TV series, Freaks and Geeks. California-born director Mike Ott delivers a sensitive and sarcastic portrait of young people stuck in a suburb of Los Angeles, trying to escape (culturally or literally) from a bleak world of racists, conservatives or snobbish French-speaking art students. The film conveys well a sense of ennui and melancholy through a well-chosen cast and a plot where seasons and the passing of time are the tracks of an analog music cassette. The soundtrack of your life. The film’s own soundtrack, filled with classical indie bands such as Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah or Joy Division, is perfect. There are shades of Gus Van Sant, through kids slowly cycling on a seemingly lunar sidewalk and a silent blonde teen who seems to come from Elephant. But Ott finds his own language, especially during the beautiful, fuzzy night scenes.
If not masterpieces, Just About Love? and Analog Days are disarmingly honest and energetic and should be celebrated for that. Because they’re young.