Revelers celebrating the 40th anni of France’s famous May uprising will find little to holler about in “Born in ’68,” a generational melodrama where syrupy nostalgia and other cliches headline a manifesto that’s much less political than emotionally provocative. Initially conceived as a two-part TV movie by filmmakers Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau (“Jeanne and the Perfect Guy”), and slightly trimmed for theatrical, pic boasts a strong cast that sheds plenty of tears but not much else in a fairly standard, uninventive treatment of the iconoclastic epoch. Midsized May release has few prospects beyond Gaul.
Narrative’s first half spans 1968-81, beginning with the legendary springtime protests and culminating in the election of Socialist prez Francois Mitterrand. In between, the pic introduces the (literal) threesome of Catherine (Laetitia Casta), Yves (Yannick Renier) and Herve (Yann Tregouet), who spend the turbulent months making lots of love and few anti-government stances.
Disillusioned by the failures of a movement they seem only marginally involved in, they join some hippie outcasts to form a commune in France’s pastoral Lot region down south. When Catherine eventually opts for the more stable and less idealistic Yves, Herve takes off into the wilderness, only to return several years later on the run for murder.
Second half, which terminates with Sarkozy’s 2007 rise to power, focuses on Catherine and Yves’ children, Boris (Theo Frilet) and Ludmilla (Sabrina Seyvecou). They predictably reject the free-love, flower-wielding ideals of their now-separated parents.
Filmmakers seem more comfortable with the ’80s material, especially Boris’ political involvement in the AIDS awareness movement and Ludmilla’s rocky marriage to an Iranian traditionalist (Slimane Yefsah). Some early sequences of flower painting, guitar strumming and idealized group sex are corny enough to make the cold, contemporary world of plasma screens and cell phones in film’s closing scenes seem a preferable utopia.
Pic’s vast historical fresco is quickly dispatched via several television sets, which always seem to be featuring major world events (fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, etc.) whenever they’re turned on in the background.
Male leads Renier (“Private Property”), Tregouet and Frilet are relatively convincing, but ex-supermodel Casta seems ill-cast as the hippie love goddess. Bright digital lensing restricts action to closeups and two-shots, and apart from some tear-jerking moments, the soundtrack is composed of the usual ’60s-’80s trendsetters.