The Age of Potential

Agnes Anne Cantineau

Agnes Anne Cantineau

Beatrice Christele Tual

Catherine Anne Caillere

Denise Isabelle Olive

Emmanuelle Sandrine Attard

Frederic Antoine Mathieu

Gerard Nicolas Pirson

Henri Arnaud Simon

Ivan David Gouhier

Jacques Jeremie Oler

An initially jaunty, gradually more somber but always engaging look at twentysomethings trying to get their emotional and professional bearings in Strasbourg, “The Age of Potential” may just turn out to be one of those prophetic thesp magnets like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” or “The Outsiders” that assembled a number of key talents of a generation. Quality tube buyers should take note.

Pic was commissioned and written to order for 10 recent grads of the same French acting academy, Ecole Superieure d’Art Dramatique du TNS, and helmed and co-scripted by Pascale Ferran, 1994 Camera d’Or winner for “Coming to Terms With the Dead.” It’s been drawing steady theatrical admissions in Paris for over four months, after preeming on Euro cultural web Arte in May.

Peppy opening scenes introduce five guys and five gals. Some have jobs, some are looking; some are dating, some are semi-attached. First half-hour of pic is brightly lit, with lots of closeups and a real feel for the city. Sequences are full of funny, tellingly human gestures and silly little habits and rituals. Dialogue flirts with the sort of philosophical meanderings on display in Arnaud Desplechin’s Cannes entry “How I Got Into an Argument,” but borderline pontificating sounds more sprightly in the mouths of a slightly younger crowd.

Characters are in flux, living lives in which a multitude of choices still seem possible but each verbal exchange or bout of silence is also freighted with the specter of roads not taken. An anonymous voiceover at the half-hour mark delivers a little speech about fear and how everybody’s basically afraid. Thereupon, film enters another register a little more authentic and a lot less optimistic. Ferran is intent on demonstrating that even moderately successful romances require care and maintenance, meaningful work is hard to come by, and other people are as likely to hinder as to help one’s personal growth.

The wonderfully distinctive ensemble cast keeps the venture afloat. Soundtrack is a mix of French and English pop music. In a lengthy and decisive party sequence during which guests sing along with a recording from “Donkey Skin ,” helmer gives a deliberate nod to Jacques Demy’s talent for making deceptively bright musicals about serious themes.

The Age of Potential

(L'AGE DES POSSIBLES)

Production: (FRENCH) A Diaphana release (in France) of an AGAT Films & Co., Theatre National de Strasbourg, La Sept/Arte production. Produced by Gilles Sandoz. Co-producer, Pierre Chevalier. Directed by Pascale Ferran. Screenplay, Ferran, Anne-Louise Trividic.

Crew: Camera (color), Jean-Marc Fabre; editor, Guy Lecorne; music, Beatrice Thiriet; art direction, Emmanuel Maintigneux; set design, Virginie Duployez, Annette Kurz, Giulio Lichtner; costume design, Sigolene de Chassy; sound (Dolby), Jean-Jacques Ferran, Jean-Pierre Laforce; assistant director, Antoine Garceau. Reviewed at Le Quartier Latin cinema, Paris, Aug. 22, 1996. (In Montreal, Venice film festivals.) Running time: 105 MIN.

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