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Though I liked his criticism for Cahiers du Cinema in the 60s, on the basis of five of his early films I haven't been a big fan of Andre Techine. But this wonderful and masterful feature (1994), his 12th, suggests that maybe he'd just been tooling up. It's one of the best movies from an excellent French television series of fiction features on teenagers of the 60s, 70s, and early 80s, and it's the first to be released in the U.S. If Techine's French Provincial (1974) evoked in some ways the Bertolucci of The Conformist, this account of kids living in southwest France in 1962, toward the end of the Algerian war, has some of the feeling, lyricism, and sweetness of Bertolucci's Before the Revolution--though it's clearly the work of someone much older and wiser. The main characters, all completing their baccalaureate exam at a boarding school, include a boy struggling with his homosexual desire for a close friend, an older student who's a right-wing opponent of Algerian nationalism, and a communist girl, the daughter of one of the teachers, who befriends the homosexual and falls for the older student in spite of their violent political differences. One remembers these characters and others as vividly as old friends, and Techine's handling of pastoral settings is as exquisite as his feeling for period. Winner of Cesar awards (the French equivalent of Oscars) for best picture, director, screenplay, and "new female discovery" (Elodie Bouchez). With Frederic Gorny, Gael Morel, Stephane Rideau, and Michele Moretti (who's best known for her work with Jacques Rivette). Music Box, Friday through Thursday, July 28 through August 3.

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