Alain Fournier’s novel Le Grand Meaulnes has become a romantic literary classic in France and been reprinted in most parts of the world. It deals with the attachment of a young friend to a more dashing and older fellow student whose lyrical imbroglios seem to take the place of his own lack of adventure as the son of a private school director in turn-of-the-century provincial France.
The director, Jean-Gabriel Albicocco, has been extremely literal, and unfortunately somewhat too literary, in translating it to the screen. Result is a rather glossy, sentimental opus that too often uses prettiness in imagery for its own sake and a mixture of styles.
Meaulnes (Jean Blaise) once met a girl at a ball but he can’t find her again. He spends time searching and then gives up and goes to Paris where he meets a girl who was the fiancee of the brother of the mysterious girl. If this sounds involved, it is. And so is what follows – unbelievably so, if one has the patience to try to figure out what is happening.
The film overdoes the use of vaselined lenses or smeared glasses to blur what reality there is. Brigitte Fossey has the right quality as the dream symbol, but the pains of adolescence, idealism and youthful coming-of-age are somewhat lost in the maze of pretty images.