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Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s in Brussels

Opening scene succinctly establishes Akerman's light, almost playful tone, and the contrasting sadness of the title character, 15-year-old Michelle (Circe). Having decided to quit school, the girl sits at a train station, idly forging absentee notes, with excuses ranging from an illness in the family to her own death.

With:
Michelle ... Circe Paul ... Julien Rassam Danielle ... Joelle Marlier Mireille ... Cynthia Rodberg In "Portrait of a Young Girl ...," Belgium's arbiter of minimalist chic, Chantal Akerman, takes a leisurely stroll through the capital, casting a casual but revealing glance at adolescent anxiety and unspoken love along the way. Thumbing her nose at period authenticity, Akerman instead incites a climate of political consciousness and social change using minor nuances of character, indirect dialogue and a freewheeling filmmaking style. Result is a film of surprising subtlety, intimacy and economy, sure to attract admirers along the festival trail.

Opening scene succinctly establishes Akerman’s light, almost playful tone, and the contrasting sadness of the title character, 15-year-old Michelle (Circe). Having decided to quit school, the girl sits at a train station, idly forging absentee notes, with excuses ranging from an illness in the family to her own death.

She goes to the movies and succumbs with no qualms, but with no particular enthusiasm, to the amorous advances of Parisian army deserter Paul (Julien Rassam). They wander the streets for hours, while lenser Raymond Fromont’s camera ambles along with them, mimicking their pleasurably unhurried gait.

Just when the film’s motor begins to slowdown, Akerman abruptly strips away her characters’ defenses by robbing them of the insulation offered by the city and its traffic noises, and placing the couple alone in an empty apartment. In an almost plaintive scene, they dance (to Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”), and then slip between the sheets.

But the film’s real emotional thrust comes in the final reels, where Michelle keeps a prearranged appointment with Danielle (Joelle Marlier), clearly the true object of her affections.

Akerman’s double-edged approach is complemented with effortless precision by Circe, who counters her character’s youthful coolness with unstoppable sincerity and a melancholy undertow. Rassam is also impressive, playing Paul with a generous share of sympathy and sensitivity.

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Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s in Brussels

(FRENCH)

Production: A La Sept/Arte, IMA Prods., SFP Prod. production in association with Sony Music Entertainment (France). (International sales: M5, Paris.) Produced by Georges Benayoun, Paul Rozenberg. Executive producers, Francoise Guglielmi, Elisabeth Deviosse, Yannick Casanova, Marilyn Watelet. Directors of production, Pierre-Alain Schatzmann, Mylene Azria. Directed, written by Chantal Akerman.

Crew: Camera (color), Raymond Fromont; editor, Martine Lebon; music, Yarol; costume design, Sophie Vanhaecke; sound, Pierre Mertens; series artistic director, Chantal Poupaud. Reviewed at Turin Intl. Young Cinema Festival, Nov. 21, 1994. Running time: 63 MIN.

With: Michelle ... Circe Paul ... Julien Rassam Danielle ... Joelle Marlier Mireille ... Cynthia Rodberg In "Portrait of a Young Girl ...," Belgium's arbiter of minimalist chic, Chantal Akerman, takes a leisurely stroll through the capital, casting a casual but revealing glance at adolescent anxiety and unspoken love along the way. Thumbing her nose at period authenticity, Akerman instead incites a climate of political consciousness and social change using minor nuances of character, indirect dialogue and a freewheeling filmmaking style. Result is a film of surprising subtlety, intimacy and economy, sure to attract admirers along the festival trail.

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