Probably more than any other film, “Wild Reeds” (Fox Lorber) tells the story of young gay love and it is probably the most popular movie that people still watch today…and rightfully so. Set in 1962 in the southwest of France, Maite and Francois are eighteen years old and they are simply friends. There is also Serge, a classmate, whose brother has just married to escape the draft and Henri, an Algerian. What happens will be discussed in a bit.
“Wild Reeds” is a wonderful drama which gives an insightful look into the lives of four teenagers in a boarding school in France. It is a complex and sophisticated study of burgeoning sexuality as well as a look at the state of French society while facing a war in Algeria and on communism which was beginning a rise among the university population.
There are several strands going on in the film simultaneously and the direction pulls everything together beautifully with lush photography and an excellent cast. It is also a brutally honest depiction of an individual recognizing and coming to terms with his sexuality and attempting to recognize and identify other people like himself in order to find someone to emulate.
The episodic nature of the film does not detract from the whole because the characters and conflicts are so beautifully rendered that there is a feeling of exuberance on the sides of both the actors and the viewers. The three boys, the main characters represent different aspects of the sexual spectrum with one being gay, one being bisexual and the other being straight. The fourth character is the personification of Algeria where war is raging.
What causes this film to soar above other coming-of-age films is its sincerity and honesty, the actors are real and the dialog is authentic. This is a film that will reawaken memories even though it is far away from the experiences that many of us had. It is such a moving film that it is said to haunt its viewers for years. What is created is a realistic and palpable universe and it isn’t, by any means, an ordinary film about the wakening of adolescence. It is also a thesis on romance and a wonderful example of delicacy and fidelity dealing with sexual themes. Above all it treats love as it should be treated–as a superior, metaphysical statement.
The one scene that stands out in my mind is when Francois seeks out a shoe salesman that everyone knows is gay. This is a scene that represents the desperate search to destroy loneliness and lowliness of the gay lifestyle as well as the lack of postivie role models. Even though he does not get the ansers he seeks, Francois remains optimistic that he will find future happiness.
This is not a movie just to be loved but it is to be adored. It gives a sense of identification and not only deals with homosexuality but with many of the other peoblems of the modern age.It has deep political, psychological and politival messages and is a beautifl and touching film that should be at the top of every gay list.
In closing let me say that the actors are not the only stars in the film. The scenery is amazing and the soundtrack by Chubby Checker fits perfectly.