Dir: Francois Armanet. France. 2001. 98 mins.
Dandy suffers from some of the same superficiality as the posturing, blow-dried youths it portrays. It's difficult to see this film, about Parisian rich kids during the mid to late 1960s, appealing to their modern-day peers in the 16 to 20-year-old age group, who are more into Nike trainers than Hush Puppies. But the star-crossed central love story, and some healthy doses of teen sex, may reach out to those looking for an infinitely more tasteful, home-baked American Pie. Older viewers will no doubt enjoy the nostalgia trip , which is helped along by a vigorous straight-to-CD soundtrack mixing American r&b classics with long-forgotten French pop ballads. But such an unremittingly Gallic film will, like Johnny Halliday - be difficult to place abroad.
Director Francois Armanet is editor-in-chief of the left-of-centre French newspaper Liberation. He is also, it now appears, a filmmaker as well as being an author: Dandy is based on his own novel, La Bande Du Drugstore. Yet despite being set in the French capital during an era of radicalism, there are no students on the barricades here: the film follows the lives of a group of style-obsessed rich kids, who are more interested in casual wear than in Marx and Lenin: think Larry Clark lite, with sta-press turn-ups replacing the crack spoons.
Floppy-fringed Philippe (Simonet) and his leather-jacketed friend Marc (Wiik) hang out at a trendy Parisian drugstore, discussing girls, music, and above all clothes. Philippe is, at heart, a sensitive soul, but he is keen to emulate Marc as a hard, cool tombeur de femmes. So when he scores with the raven-haired Charlotte (Cassel) at a party in one of the opulent country houses that populate the film, Philippe, frightened, presumably by the idea of falling in love just when he was looking forward to a career as a cynical sex god - does nothing at all to follow up on that long lingering, first kiss. The rest of the film runs with the oldest script rule in the book: that the course of true love should on no account be allowed to run smooth.
Although Mathieu Simonet puts in a suitably enervated performance as a young man torn between romanticism and the destructive misogyny of his cronies, his character is never entirely likeable. More engaging than either of the leads are their two confidants, Marc, who gets packed off to a kibbutz after trashing a house, and Natalie, an easy-going (and easy-coming) blonde who sets out to initiate Philippe into the joys of sex. The dialogue provides moments of comedy which modulate into something darker at times, particularly in the increasingly vicious stories of sexual exploits that punctuate the action. This is a road the director might have gone down a little further. Dandy would have benefited from being a little less Sacha Distel and a little more Iggy Pop.
Prod co: 3B Productions
Co-prod: France 2 Cinema, Studio Canal
Fr dist Tadart Films
Int'l sales: President Films
Prod: Jean Brehat, Rachid Bouchareb
Scr: Francois Armanet, Jean Helpert, based on the novel by Francois Armanet
Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman
Ed: Sandrine Degeen
Prod des: Jean Marc, Tran Tan Ba
Main cast: Mathieu Simonet, Cecile Cassel, Aurelien Wilk, Alice Taglioni, Laurent Pialet