Constantly finding new ways to organize and package the titles in their wide-ranging Studio Canal library, Lionsgate sticks its neck out with an Andre Techine collection, offering a survey of four psychological studies by the serious-minded French director. Because Techine functions as a true auteur, orbiting the same themes throughout his career, the works form a more unified package than many of Lionsgate’s star-oriented sets (one film, 1981’s “Hotel des Ameriques,” also appears in their recent Catherine Deneuve collection), but it goes without saying the director’s portrait on the box isn’t likely to sell as many units.
Deneuve and Techine have actually collaborated on five films so far, although only two make the cut here, the second being “My Favorite Season” (1993), a deep-rooted family portrait in which she and Daniel Auteuil play siblings grappling with the looming death of their strong-willed mother. Amid the adult emotions, the director also makes time for the family’s youngest generation, a teen boy and girl competing for the son’s Moroccan guest.
Though he was fortunate enough to work with established French stars, Techine was equally content directing nubile young unknowns, as he does in “Wild Reeds” (1994), his celebrated semi-autobiographical tale of sexual awakening in 1962, where boarding school shenanigans are overshadowed by the Algerian War. Of the four works sampled here, “Wild Reeds” is the lone film in which Techine manages to strike a balance between intellectual and erotic concerns, resulting in a full-bodied work that still holds up well as one of the classics of its decade.
The fourth film, 1991’s “I Don’t Kiss,” about a young man who flees to Paris where he gets by hustling, has also improved with time, gaining added resonance in light of Techine’s most recent film, “The Witnesses” (not included in the set, but featuring many of the same actors). In “I Don’t Kiss,” the hustler earns money sleeping with men (under the conditions of the title) but falls for a female prostitute that results in a harsh wake-up call. In “The Witnesses,” Techine revisits the same territory through the lens of AIDS.
With no extras, the set basically allows audiences to discover Techine on their own terms, grappling as he does with various stories of sexual and/or romantic incompatibility. However, perhaps by packaging his films together, Lionsgate will succeed in introducing the intellectually curious to Techine’s work.