Film #247: Being 17 (2016)

qoa17ansaka: Quand on a 17 ans
director: André Téchiné
language: French with a bit of Spanish
length: 109 minutes
watched on: 16 Dec 2016

There’s been a bit of buzz about this movie in LGBT circles over the last few months, and I finally got around to watching it in December. Now, I don’t usually talk about this publicly, but if you know about it already or you look at the IMDB page now, you will know that it’s only had a limited release in the US, and certainly not in Japan or even the UK. Spoiler alert: I downloaded it. But honestly, I don’t recommend that, not yet: it’s only had a DVD release in the Netherlands, and the subtitles included with the torrent are Google-translated from Dutch. My French is good enough that I could just use the subtitles to understand the more difficult words, but this lack of proper subtitles may ruin one’s enjoyment. However, next spoiler alert: I really liked this movie, and I would definitely see it again on the big screen if I get the chance (fingers crossed it comes to the festival in Tokyo this year). So I’d hold out for that, or a proper DVD release.

The film is set in the Pyrénées, and it opens with extraordinary vistas of the mountains in the winter. Seasonality is very important in the movie, and it transitions in the second and third acts to spring and summer. Honestly, I haven’t seen such an immediately beautiful movie in a while. It really revels in the scenery, and that’s the main reason I want to see it again on the big screen.

The plot follows two boys, who don’t get on at school – they’re always fighting. But one’s doctor mother helps the other’s sick mother, who turns out to be pregnant. She then helps out the other family by taking in the other boy for a while, much to the chagrin of her own son. Then in the time-honoured tradition of gay films, he falls for the other guy. Long story short, anyway.

It’s not completely true to my experience – I didn’t roughhouse with my fellow students so much, and I wasn’t so brutally honest with my crushes when I was a teenager. But it has a universality to the kinds of anxieties it captures, of being that age, beyond the usual coming-out anxieties typical of gay films. I’d be very disappointed if it gets relegated only to LGBT film festivals, but as usual, this is almost certainly going to happen.

I also like the slow-burn realization that they’re into each other, as I think it’s not until the third act that they finally do something about it, and not before a lot of angst, and quoting Rimbaud at each other, talking about desire and need. They’re also downright cute together by the end.

Is it the perfect movie? Not quite, but it’s very beautiful. Did it tear my heart into a thousand pieces? Yes…

Anyone else seen it?

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