La Belle Saison (Summertime, Catherine Corsini, 2015)
I spent a day grumbling about the sense that this was two films which didn’t quite dovetail together — but then I read an abstract about Nancy Astor and thought about her niece Joyce Grenfell and things slid into place.
Delphine ( Izïa Higelin) is the daughter of a farmer, Maurice (Jean-Henri Compère), and a farmer’s wife, Monique (Noémie Lvovsky), and wants to be a farmer, but she is likely to become a farmer’s wife. Her heart lies elsewhere and when her relationship with a young woman breaks down, she runs away to Paris.
It is 1971, and two years after May 68 feminists are campaigning for equality, reproductive rights and — in a thread that is left dangling — homosexuality, rescuing a young man from electroshock therapy in a clinic. She meets and falls in love with Carole (Cécile de France), who is in love with a man, but has to return to the farm when her father has a stroke. For a while, it looks as if Carole can join her, but it seems that those around her aren’t as open minded and simply being discrete as you might think.
The scenes in Paris are fascinating — although given the similarities of student protests f or rather different causes in the 1980s in 120 BPM (Robin Campillo, 2017), the city might move as slowly as the sticks are thought to. It is tempting to assume that these scenes — with the unarguable need for women’s and gay right’s — are the heart of the film.
But if Carole is fighting for rights, Delphine seems to be taking them. She won’t wait for a man to decide she can have a meeting with the bank, she will have one and she will have a cheque book unlike her mother. We see all three central women engaging successfully in physical work that I’m sure I couldn’t. Delphine is undoubtedly feminist, but more through her actions than direct action. She rightly wants to rewrite the rules.