This is a slightly left of centre review but just after having viewed this movie on TFO last night
C'est la vie, hein?
From 1979, Passe ton bac d'abord is the unremarkable lives of teenagers stuck in a mining town in Lens, France. Maurice Pialat's film just before Loulou perfectly captures the ordinariness of their daily life.
As the credits start roll, the introduction to philosophy by their teacher drones on in the background, dropping words like "s'ennui" and "pourquoi ... on tracasse"
Director Maurice Pialat has a proven eye for the ladies, here he casts the pretty and vulnerable Sabine Haudepin [ first seen in Jules et Jim as the young Sabine ] as Elisabeth and Philippe Marlaud as Philippe who has an eye for Elisabeth. The other schoolmates are drawn from the town itself, each "actor" bearing their own name and playing themselves.
The generational theme of Passe ton bac d'abord is not unlike that seen in Lukas Moodysson's Show Me Love or other teen related films, kids trying to grow up and going nowhere fast, killing time, hanging out together and dreaming of getting out - or in the case of the young girl Agnes, getting married in a few months. The prospects for the teens of getting out of Lens are minimal at best. Their fathers work in the mine to support their families, but come prone to deadly silicosis from the dust inhaled in their labours.
The young girl dreams of her wedding day in a few months, not unlike a friend who also married at 19 but already burdened with two kids already. Althought set in 1979, the colourful movie is still modern in style and fashion with a French flare. Mentions of the Sex Pistols and other punk bands are contemporary. A trip to the seaside takes the friends out of Lens for a while. The question still is what are you going to do after graduation or dropping out of school. L'ennui is the word of the day, so it's a parade of "on se balade?" strolls along the beach. The girls hairstyles and deportment is not out of place for the time, while the young male's coifs are long and styled. Displays of affection are not out of place, and there are flashes of the bedroom. This is not a generation of slackers, although a life without lycée does not leave much choice for the guys except to stay in Lens or find their dream elsewhere - this time in Paris.
Passe ton bac d'abord has the Pialat charm and intimate camerawork that would be his trademark for films to come. Next stop: Loulou.