Suzanne is 16. She’s started going to alcohol fuelled parties, but she finds the taste of beer boring and still has a Bambi poster on her bedroom wall. When asked to rank her male classmates on a scale of 0 to 10, she says that she doesn’t understand ranking people like this, but if push comes to shove, she’d give them all a 5. As she says later, people her own age bore her.
Suzanne starts to become infatuated with Rafael, a cute actor who rides a moped and is performing in the local theatre. He is also 35. She keeps accidentally on purpose bumping into him, drinking grenadine and lemonade in his chosen café. She also starts dressing in short skirts and wearing mascara just in case. Soon he’s inviting her to meet up for an age-inappropriate breakfast and buying her sweets.
And that’s pretty much it, really. I think we’re meant to be enchanted by a Story of First Love, which showed in several important festivals, including Cannes. Whatever lights your candle – it just felt a little creepy to me. The fact that the film was written and directed by Suzanne Lindon, the 20-year old who plays Suzanne didn’t help things to be honest. I just had the feeling, she must have good connections to get this gig, and sure enough, her parents are both successful actors.
My problem with the film is not just because the difference in ages make Rafael seem like a sex pest. After all, Lolita is still a great film. But in Spring Blossom, nothing happens. Nothing. They respectfully flirt. She walks around with a dreamy look in her face. They silently dance or listen to opera while their arms move in synchronisation. She goes to an after-show party with his workmates who bore her by talking about the use of mahogany for stages.
This is all just as dull as it sounds. Maybe first love is like that, but if so, I’m glad I can’t remember such a boring phase of my life. Later Suzanne has enough with Rafael before falling in tears in her mother’s arms. But even here we don’t get any sense of real people doing anything of consequence.
Showing the film almost entirely from Suzanne’s point of view (plus the fact that the director/writer is female) means that it rarely comes across as the story of a predatory man taking advantage of someone half his age – we never get to see what Rafael thinks and Suzanne is depicted as being in control throughout.
But even if Rafael is an innocent, the age difference is not something you can wish away. Now I’m not so prudish that I think that a relationship between 16- and 35-year olds can never work, but the elephant in the room should be at least acknowledged. On one level the story remains the innocuous fantasy of an adolescent girl (apparently Lindon wrote the story when she was 15). Yet this is a fantasy with which were are invited to be complicit.
The problem is, that Suzanne’s life has no jeopardy. Her biggest worry is that she’s easily bored and her mates keep chatting with her during lessons. She lives in the pleasant Parisian district of Montmartre with her perfect bourgeois family. Although Suzanne Lindon’s dad, Vincent, you couldn’t get much further from the classic of social realism. This is well and truly the rich and pampered at play.
I can understand a certain defence of Spring Blossom, just as I accept that there are some people on this world who believe that Goethe’s Sufferings of Young Werther aren’t just the self-indulgent ravings of someone who just needs a clip round the ear and to be told to grow up. Some people like watching the lifestyle of people like them, even if they lead rich and privileged lives and rarely experience any real conflict in your life.
But for anyone else who enjoyed this, what on earth did you see in this? It just feels all so banal and lifeless.