3:16 pm - 05/23/2014

Bande De Filles aka Girlhood is one of the best coming of age movies in years

French director Céline Sciamma's first two features, "Water Lilies" and "Tomboy," followed young women through challenging periods of social confusion and identity crises. Her latest and best work, "Girlhood," follows that same pattern by taking it one step further. While Sciamma's previous movies found characters overcoming their burdens through perseverance, "Girlhood" gives them the chance to really act out. The tense, involving result confirms Sciamma's mastery over the coming-of-age drama, a genre too often reduced to its simplest ingredients.

Sciamma's latest stage of development arrives alongside a major discovery. Heading up an all-black cast, Karidja Touré plays subdued teen Marieme, a low key girl who lives in a lower class Paris neighborhood with her warring parents and younger sister. The opportunity arrives for her to come out of her shell when a trio of local teens coax her into their gang, luring her with the promise of cute boys. Before long, Marieme has joined forces with the motley crew as they cruise shopping malls and threaten rival gangs on a freewheeling rein of terror, while Sciamma lets her actors do the dirty work. Touré's transformation from a subdued, frustrated child of neglect to a young woman in control of her life provides the movie with a robust backbone as she grows increasingly rebellious and assertive.

Without the intrusion of chapter headings, Sciamma marks each new transition in her behavior with a telling fade to black, tracking her emerging consciousness in bursts of interconnected experiences that avoid forcing her process into a single tidy narrative. Instead, she grows up incrementally through each credible burst of events. Collectively, however, they fuel a single portrait. Sciamma is near-Hitchcockian in her use of images fraught with meaning to develop a steady build, starting with the moment after Marieme joins the gang and clandestinely pockets a knife from her parents' kitchen.

More violent possibilities await. Before she figures out her priorities, Marieme relishes in the opportunity to turn bad, and finds plenty of encouraging company. At the head of her newfound group is a ferocious woman who goes by the nickname "Lady," and her hyperactive need to shoot a fiery gaze at every figure heading her direction gives Marieme all the ammunition she needs to do the same. Touré's face often displays transitions from profound sadness to unhindered fury that cut far deeper than any of her companions, so it comes as no surprise when she eventually outgrows their form of rebellion and falls in with a much more dangerous crowd, risking her safety and experimenting with her burgeoning sexuality. Her peers aptly nickname her "Vic," for "victory," because once Marieme gets going, that's all she can focus on.

But what's the end game for all these rage? "Girlhood" smartly leaves that element unanswered. Sciamma treats her protagonists with the same degree of intelligence allotted to characters twice their age, at once sympathizing with Marieme's plight as the product of her troubled socioeconomic climate without pitying her. Nobody gives her an easy out; the movie's suspense expertly builds out of her own process of sussing out the options at her disposal.

Sciamma avoids overstating this arc with perfunctory dialogue. Instead, much of the themes in play unfold in physical terms: One prolonged sequence finds the girls partying in a hotel room, lip-syncing to Rihanna's "Diamonds" while bathed in blue light, as if celebrating a carefree fantasy of their own creation. Such nonchalance is later balanced off by the brutal choreography of a street fight and the naturalistic intensity of a dance-off. No matter how inelegant their dialogue, "Girlhood" never strays from its authentic approach.

Though "Girlhood" deals with race by implication, its main line of inquiry is universal (which, ironically, makes it something of anomaly among movies exclusively focused on minorities). Marieme's decisions alternate from terrible and destructive to heroic, but it's never entirely clear which way she'll take it. In the final shot, the character drifts in and out of frame with a pair of disparate expressions that cover the full spectrum of emotions she's experiencing—from fear to determination—without a single word. Ultimately, "Girlhood" chronicles her constant willingness to push back on new trials. "You act so smart, but what do you know?" one of her friends says in the midst of a quarrel. With each passing moment, the movie strives to answer that question.


The film got a lot of positive reviews after premiering at Directors' Fortnight in Cannes. I can't wait to see it!
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
missingalphabet 23rd-May-2014 02:26 pm (UTC)
YESSSSSSSS, but how long do I have to wait? Probably won't come to the US, though.
some_unholy_war 23rd-May-2014 03:11 pm (UTC)
the film have not yet been bought by a US distributor & it premieres this fall in france! october 22nd to be exact :)
thirteencands 23rd-May-2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
i will run to the cinema in october, that's for sure
sprty 23rd-May-2014 02:28 pm (UTC)
more movies where young black girls are portrayed as complex, emotional characters outside of the usual tropes are desperately needed. i've enjoyed sciamma's work in the past so i'm eager to see this although i'm admittedly hesitant.

the girls being cute at cannes

Edited at 2014-05-23 02:42 pm (UTC)
some_unholy_war 23rd-May-2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
ugh, they're perfect <3

their cannes interview was cute, too!
sprty 23rd-May-2014 04:33 pm (UTC)
they're angels!
youbeboy 23rd-May-2014 09:30 pm (UTC)
more movies where young black girls are portrayed as complex, emotional characters outside of the usual tropes are desperately needed.

mte. It wouldn't matter what the plot is. I'm here for it based on that alone.
therearewords 23rd-May-2014 02:29 pm (UTC)
I want it I want it.
lord 23rd-May-2014 02:32 pm (UTC)
I definitely want to see this, hope the local limited viewing theater will receive this from distribution.
cranberryfitch 23rd-May-2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
they're all gorgeous. i really wanna see this omg
breaktheice89 23rd-May-2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
this sounds intriguing
herculeflambeau 23rd-May-2014 02:40 pm (UTC)
Lol...I googled the director and was not expecting to see a white woman hipster staring back at me. This sounds interesting though!
idontwannago55 23rd-May-2014 02:47 pm (UTC)

same thing happened to me when I googled the woman who directed Paris is Burning
manita_bestija 23rd-May-2014 03:03 pm (UTC)
did you seriously expect the director of water lilies and tomboy to be anything else? :D
vespertinev 23rd-May-2014 03:16 pm (UTC)
The director of tomboy and water lilies can't find a distributor for her new movie... the world really is a sad place.
treebraids 23rd-May-2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
I just assumed she was black - lol.
wild_poppies 23rd-May-2014 05:03 pm (UTC)
lol mte
29feb 24th-May-2014 10:27 am (UTC)
i didn't even have to goog to know that. so will most of the people responding to this post. over it.
benevolents 23rd-May-2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
Oooh! I want to see this.
doughnutholes 23rd-May-2014 02:48 pm (UTC)
Very excited about this.
supertex 23rd-May-2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
Though "Girlhood" deals with race by implication, its main line of inquiry is universal (which, ironically, makes it something of anomaly among movies exclusively focused on minorities).

imo this is EXACTLY how it should be. you can address the issues specific to any minority group, and yet still have the overarching themes be universal enough that a film can reach a broad audience. i'm looking forward to this. and i still need to see Tomboy
technomat 23rd-May-2014 02:56 pm (UTC)
I'm really looking forward to this
petecarl 23rd-May-2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
So, that video told me nothing, but I love coming of age stories (especially about girls), so I'll add it to my flist.

These girls all look like they could be models.

Edited at 2014-05-23 03:02 pm (UTC)
duchello 23rd-May-2014 03:25 pm (UTC)
you know, this says a lot about media, but for a hot second it was jarring/confusing to see 4 darker skin black females (and only them) in a film still, because I'm so used to seeing only one interspersed with an all white cast. either ways, I'm into coming of way so I want to see this
jiggle_jingles8 23rd-May-2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
Added to my watch list.
ms_mmelissa 23rd-May-2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to see this, but it's frustrating it won't get North American distribution (actually, maybe it'll get distributed in Quebec).
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
This page was loaded Jul 25th 2014, 8:35 pm GMT.