Une vraie jeune fille [A Real Young Girl] (1976)

Une vraie jeune fille
Director: Catherine Breillat
Writer: Catherine Breillat
Based on: her novel Le Soupirail
Cast: Charlotte Alexandra, Hiram Keller, Rita Maiden, Bruno Balp, Georges Guéret, Shirley Stoler
Seen on: 7.10.2017

Alice (Charlotte Alexandra) is 14 and has the entire summer vacations in her parents’ small country home ahead of her, an outlook that fills her with dread. All she has to occupy her time with is her own body, so Alice experiments. Worker Jim (Hiram Keller) becomes a part of that experimentation as Alice starts to fantasize about him. But soon fantasy isn’t enough for her anymore.

Une vraie jeune fille wasn’t quite as engaging as Breillat’s later work Romance, at least not for me, but since this is Breillat’s first feature film, it’s not all that surprising. And it definitely has enough to say to still make it an interesting film.

The thing that maybe stood out to me the most about Romance – the unflinching and shameless (in the best sense) portrayal of sex and (female) desire – is already well present here, even when Alice’s experiments do turn more than a little strange (that poor earthworm). Things did turn a little disgusting and I wouldn’t have needed all of that, but of course, there’s much to be said with sounding out where exactly that line is between relish and repugnance, so maybe we also needed the obviously disgusting things after all.

Breillat doesn’t quite manage to keep the emotional tension and arc. That means that towards the end things get actually funny for the audience, although the ending isn’t all that funny objectively. But by that point I was at too much of a distance of what happened in the film to keep up with its emotional content.

Still, it’s fascinating to see Alice’s quest for knowledge about her own body and sex – and finally see her gaining sexual freedom thanks to contraception and a lack of attachment. In that sense, it’s a classic coming-of-age story even if most of those don’t usually feature such explicit sex.

It’s understandable that the film caused quite a ruckus when it came out and was even banned in France. But I think it’s more interesting to see what it has to say than to get hung up about the explicit details.

Summarizing: Definitely worth it.

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