Synopsis: In 1970s France, country girl Delphine (Izïa Higelin) moves to Paris to break free from the shackles of her family and to gain independence. She meets Carole (Cécile de France), a Parisian activist involved in the stirrings of the feminist movement. The attraction between them is undeniable, and they embark on a passionate, all-consuming affair.
From vibrant scenes of civil unrest on the streets of Paris, to the lushly photographed rural landscape, director Catherine Corsini has crafted a radiant, sensual exploration of love between two women caught in a turbulent era.
La belle saison 8.25
eyelights: Izïa Higelin. its performances. its photography. its socio-political content. its sexy bits. its emotional core. its beautiful score.
eyesores: its semi-familiar plot.
“I love her like crazy. I never thought I’d love anyone like this.”
Delphine lives in a rural French town, working on her family farm, but decides to escape to Paris when the pressure of getting married gets to be too much. There she meets Carole, a Spanish teacher who is involved in feminist politics, and falls madly for her – despite the fact that Carole has a boyfriend.
They become friends, Delphine seduces her, they fall in love.
But it’s not as simple as all that: it’s 1971 and gays weren’t nearly as accepted as they are now. But it’s easy to blend in, to get lost, in the big city. When Delphine’s father suffers a massive stroke, she’s called upon to return and save the farm. And when Carole joins her, tensions build in this closed community.
‘La belle saison’ is a 2015 motion picture by Catherine Corsini, the director of ‘La répétition‘. It stars Izïa Higelin as Delphine, Cécile de France as Carole, and Noémie Lvovsky as Delphine’s mom, Monique. It was nominated for a handful of French movie awards in various categories, most notably for its performances.
I honestly have no idea how this picture ended up on my radar, but it’s turning out to be one of my favourite films this year thus far. Though this kind of love story isn’t exactly uncommon, I was touched by the purity of the protagonists’ emotions and was rather taken by the natural ease that the two actresses had.
Watching them felt like watching two people genuinely fall for each other, with the highs and lows that come along with that: the elation of being in the other’s company and arms and the agony that comes from being pulled apart, even for a short time. It brought me back to a few still-vivid experiences of my own.
I especially liked Izïa Higelin, who had the huskiness required to work a farm, but also a natural beauty that made her extremely seductive. There was something about the look in her eyes, the way her lips parted as she smiled. She had confidence, an earthy comfort in her own skin, that I also found appealing.
In fact, both of them were quite carefree, which is something I love seeing, since that’s not always the case; people can exhibit awkwardness or even shame with respect to their bodies – which is hardly surprising given the climate. So seeing the two being natural au naturel, alone or together, was refreshing to me.
I especially liked to see them making out in the countryside, though it immediately begged questions about why their indiscretions weren’t discovered by the locals. Similarly, I adored the scenes of them interlaced in bed, sleeping, wrapped in nothing but their affection. It was lovely to see them just be together.
The picture has a simple three-act, with Delphine going to the big city, getting involved in politics after a chance meeting with Carole, then returning to the farm and immersing Carol into her world, and finally the inevitable conflicts that arise when Delphine and Carol’s relationship is noticed at home.
But ‘La belle saison’ strikes a fine balance between emotional and intellectual content, which makes it superior to its peers. The socio-political discourse that Carole and her friends engage in in Paris, is still relevant today, and it was interesting to hear them in that context, to be reminded of their roots.
Though there was nothing really all that new, content-wise, I enjoyed revisiting all of it, as there aren’t tons of films that touch on these topics. I especially like that it was then transposed to the rural setting, where the gender roles were clearly defined and hard for Carole to influence, let alone shake.
One thing that the film did well was to switch up the roles of Delphine and Carole in their seduction; one will often find the more “sophisticated” city slicker seduce the more simple rural folk, but here it’s Delphine who takes the lead – and Carole has to struggle with her newfound, unimagined bisexuality.
I also liked the mature dialogues that Delphine and Carole had about their relationship and the impact that it has on the people around them (and vice versa) as well as the one between Carole and Manuel, her boyfriend, who struggles with her love affair but tries to be understanding. It was sober, intelligent.
I’m not saying that ‘La belle saison’ is the greatest movie of its ilk or of all time, but it really did strike a chord with me. I found myself weeping at the end, when Delphine finds herself pulled in two directions, one way or another facing a tragic loss that she couldn’t avoid. I found myself feeling for both girls.
And not every movie can do that. To me, this felt true, grounded, as close to reality as it’s possible to be in a medium that is all artificiality. ‘La belle saison’ doesn’t get overly sentimental, isn’t melodramatic, and it doesn’t serve up lies wrapped up in fantasy. This story could and probably has happened.
Somewhere out there are Delphine and Carole.
My heart goes out to them.
Date of viewing: June 10, 2017