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I Was Seventeen

Barbara Gance Valentine Vidal

Barbara Gance Valentine Vidal

Her Mother Brigitte Rovan

Her Father Pierre Beziers

Anthony Toufik Daas

French director Philippe Faucon, who drew notice last year for his lesbian coming-out pic “Muriel’s Parents Have Had It Up to Here,” comes up with another discreetly observant work in “I Was Seventeen.” Drama about a teenage girl who unwittingly becomes HIV-positive is light of touch and brisk in the telling, though its real home is the small screen.

Set in the South of France, and based on a true story that subsequently emerged in print, the film pivots on Barbara (Valentine Vidal), who can’t get on with her parents and is checked into a juvenile center. There she meets Anthony (Toufik Daas), a former junkie, with whom she eventually sleeps; only after he’s expelled does she learn he’s HIV-positive.

The news that she’s positive, too, provides a bond with her family, who stoutly defend their daughter against local prejudice. Barbara later tracks down Anthony in Marseille, only to find him back on drugs; after saving him from near-death, she catches the next bus home.

Pic packs a lot into its brief running time, concisely drawing characters (especially in the juvenile center), and then moving on. Though the HIV issue forms the dramatic core, Faucon’s film is as much a portrait of teen life as anything else, and at no point gets on a soapbox about either AIDS or young people’s problems. Partly due to its no-nonsense mounting, as well as the unaffected perfs of the cast, the mood remains light and involving. Tech credits are modest but OK.

I Was Seventeen

(MES DIX-SEPT ANS)

  • Production: (FRENCH) An Ellipse Programme/France 2 production. (International sales: Canal Plus Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Robert Rea. Directed by Philippe Faucon. Screenplay, Faucon, William Karel, freely adapted from the book "You're Not Serious When You're Seventeen" (On n'est pas serieux quand on a dix-sept ans) by Barbara Samson.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Pierre Millon; editor, Ariane Doublet; music, Benoit Schlosberg; sound, Suzanne Durand. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival, Aug. 10, 1996. Running time: 72 MIN.
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