Hervé (Vincent Lacoste) and his best friend Camel (Anthony Sonigo) are obsessed with the fairer sex, but they're operating outside the cool crowd at their Parisian high school. Laura (Julie Scheibling), whom Camel adores, makes sport by teasing Hervé into a put down before returning to her jock boyfriend Loïc (Baptiste Huet), but when pretty Aurore (Alice Trémolière) expresses interest, it might just be the real thing in "The French Kissers."
Cowriter (with Marc Syrigas)/director Riad Sattouf has in many ways made a typical teen sex comedy, but this one's more sophisticated than most of its American counterparts. For one thing, there's no gross out humor. For another, Sattouf, who gets remarkable performances from his young, inexperienced cast, has chosen the likes of Irène Jacob, Emmanuelle Devos and "Persepolis" writer/director Marjane Satrapi as their adult counterparts. Watch for Valeria Golino's appearance in a video. Devos's "Kings and Queen" costar Noémie Lvovsky ("Actresses") is a hysterical high point as Hervé's mom who has an unflappable interest in his sex life whether it be singular or plural.
Pimply faced Hervé has trouble dodging mom for some porn privacy (when he does, Sattouf orchestrates his hand movement and the magazine's jiggling to a peppy synth score). He reacts to Aurore's interest strangely, perhaps not believing it after getting taken in by Laura, and manages to say the most hilariously awful things in response to her conversation. After a lot of practice at the titular pastime, the truth eventually comes out during a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
It's the journey, though, which is so much fun. When Hervé and the obscenely mulletted Camel join their other nerd friends for a pass at homemade Ouija board, they wonder who has responded to them - Lucifer? no; Grandpa? no: Hitler - yes! First question - 'Will I lock lips with Laura?' A party at Aurore's proves a sensation when her mother turns out to be none other than a lingerie model the boys have fantasized over (Irène Jacob). The class 'representative,' Wulfran (Victorien Rolland), looks like a Victorian Goth member of The Byrds.
Appearing in Boston Museum of Fine Arts' 15th annual French Film Festival, "The French Kissers" is a good example of popular French film made with intelligence and wit. The film's many awards, from a Cesar for best first film (Lvovsky and Lacoste were also nominated), an honor also bestowed by the French press, to France's Golden Globe equivalent Best Newcomer to Lacoste and Sonigo, also help define it as more than a Gallic "Porky's." This is one of those rare films that had me laughing out loud.
Robin's review coming soon!
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