Yesterday evening I watched L’Effrontée (1985) starring a prepubescent teenage Charlotte Gainsbourg. Daughter of two very famous/notorious controversial celebrities; French singer/songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg, and British born actress, Jane Birkin; Charlotte Gainsbourg, is one of most talented film personalities of France today.
L'Effrontée (1985)Directed by Claude Miller, L’Effrontée, is a coming of age story about a 13 year old motherless teenage girl, Charlotte Castang (played by Gainsbourg), on the verge puberty, set during the school’s summer vacation. The bored Charlotte always seems angry, especially as no one seems to understand her or take her seriously. Only friend she has, in her rundown neighbourhood, is Lulu (Julie Glenn), a sickly 10 year old tomboyish girl, who adores Charlotte, though Charlotte finds her a pest. One day Charlotte meets a sophisticated child prodigy, the famed pianist, Clara Bauman (Clothilde Baudon), who is the same age as her. Clara in jest asks Charlotte to be her manger, which poor Charlotte takes seriously, and feels might be her one way ticket away from her drab life.

The focal point of the movie is none other than Charlotte Gainsbourg herself. I don’t think there is even one moment without her presence, with the exception of the beginning of the party scene, where we see Clothilde Baudon playing the piano, and Gainsbourg making her entrance in the balcony. The camera moves around with Gainsbourg, in the whole movie. We don’t see anything she doesn’t. We aren’t aware of anything she isn’t aware of. Director Claude Miller has done a beautiful job of directing a very sensitive and delicate topic like adolescence, and Gainsbourg’s portrayal of this impudent girl, whose mother died when she was a baby, is nothing less than brilliant. One can see the inbreeding of the beginnings of a very successful career for the future Charlotte Gainsbourg.

One of best thing about this movie is, that it’s not about a teenager’s discovery of her sexuality, for a change. That particular cliché, associated with many a movies dealing with teenage issues, doesn’t really exist here. True there is an older man, Jean (Jean-Philippe Écoffey) who she hangs out with a couple of times, but she has no sexual interest towards him. In fact when he tries to force her, she escapes by hitting him on the head with glass globe. And though Charlotte’s adoration for Clara, is almost bordering on homoerotism, yet her deep admiration for Clara is more to do with her musical talent and posh lifestyle, than an attraction towards Clara herself. She keeps saying how much she loves Clara, but in actuality, what Charlotte really feels is an admiration towards her, like towards an idol, like little Lulu’s admiration towards Charlotte.

Another interesting role is that of Jean-Claude Brialy, as Sam, Clara’s manager. A genuine person who has great regard for Clara’s piano skills, and isn’t her manager, just for the money. Although he enjoys the luxury lifestyle he gets to live, thanks to her. He is also like the comic relief in somewhat tense moments where Charlotte is involved. Though this beautiful drama is not an out and out comedy, there are many a hilarious moments thanks to the natural acting talents when it comes to children, especially little Lulu. It’s also a great insight into growing up in the 1980’s, in a cut off little French village.

Charlotte Gainsbourg won the César Award (France’s national film award) for ‘Most Promising Actress’, for her role in L’Effrontée (1985).

L’Effrontée (1985), My Rating: 8/10. Very Good!! 

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense