Suzanne Lindon makes her acting and directorial debut with remarkable assurance - and success
Dir/scr Suzanne Lindon. France. 2020. 73 mins
There’s a point in adolescence at which time seems to slow down. Caught between childhood and the adult world, it’s a moment which stretches out interminably. The agonies of anticipation of something – anything – happening make the daily routine seem suddenly unbearable. It’s a slippery transitional zone that writer, director and actress Suzanne Lindon captures evocatively in her feature debut, about a schoolgirl’s infatuation with an older man. And it’s perhaps not surprising – Lindon, who penned the screenplay aged fifteen, was simultaneously living the moment and writing it. Still just twenty when she directed and starred in the film, Lindon creates a portrait of first love which is fresh, honest and engaging.
Lindon’s extreme youth is one selling point, but certainly not the only one
The sylph-slight story is given weight by Lindon’s performance. The acting genes are evidently strong (she is the daughter of Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain): Lindon gives an effortlessly natural, emotionally open performance. A Cannes label title which screens in Toronto and San Sebastian, Spring Blossom should find further interest on the festival circuit. Lindon’s extreme youth is one selling point, but certainly not the only one – this is a film with real charm which should serve as a launchpad for her career both as a director and, perhaps more so, as an actor.
Gauche, ill-at-ease and slightly removed from the other girls in her class, Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) tries and fails to communicate in the language of breathless confidences that her friends speak fluently. There’s an angular quality to the way that she holds herself; even her dark hair sets her apart from the pastel-hues of the others. When, at a teen party that she forced herself to attend, one of the girls demands that she rate the boys out of ten, she shrugs, perplexed that these callow males should warrant anything other than indifference.
One man does catch her eye, however. Raphael (Arnaud Valois) is an actor who is starring in a play at the theatre she passes on her way to and from school. He’s thirty-five, but is drawn to the gamine girl with the husky voice who hovers across the square, not quite able to make eye contact.
And yes, it’s a little creepy, the way he gazes wistfully at her as if she’s the answer to his ennui. But Lindon handles the relationship in a way that diffuses the slightly suspect elements. It is, as far as is shown, a platonic affair. Their kisses, although not exactly chaste, are never on the lips. And crucially, Lindon demonstrates that her character has agency when she refuses to take a ride on his moped. Another device which adds to the film’s appeal is the use of dance sequences which convey the moments of synchronicity between the two. A shared cafe table and a piece of music that she hears through headphones and he enjoys from memory is explored through a particularly lovely, unfussy piece of choreography.
Ultimately, this is a story told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is fumbling her way through her first love – a touch of unworldly romantic naivety is entirely fitting.
Production company: Avenue B Productions
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Producers: Caroline Bonmarchand
Editing: Pascal Chavance
Cinematography: Jérémie Attard
Production design: Caroline Long Nguyen
Music: Vincent Delerm
Main cast: Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Florence Viala, Frédéric Pierrot, Rebecca Marder