Cold Water

French youth on the road to maturity.

LONG BEFORE she stole the show from Leo in The Beach, Virginie Ledoyen was making waves amongst the cr譥 de la cr譥 of French cinema. She was barely 15 when she starred opposite Marcello Mastroianni in The Children Thief (1991). In Olivier Assayas' 1994 film Cold Water, she plays a truculent teen of the early '70s who gets caught shoplifting. Ledoyen makes a most appealing young antiheroine, as beautiful as Natalie Portman and as cynical as Christina Ricci.


directed by Olivier Assayas

with Virginie Ledoyen and Cyprien Fouquet runs July 20-23 at Little Theatre

Director Assayas (Irma Vep) produced Cold Water as part of a series commissioned by French television to focus on teens. However, it's nothing like most American teen movies, which portray high schoolers as sex-starved morons. Assayas doesn't condescend to his characters: Despite their often visceral, impulsive reactions to the adult world, 16-year-old Christine (Ledoyen) and her boyfriend Gilles (Cyprien Fouquet) try to be mature—maturity in their case meaning loving and protecting each other like sole survivors of a terrible wreck.

Assayas has a marvelous way of conveying layers of emotions with concise, economical combinations of image and sound. When Christine is sent to a mental institution, Assayas avoids stock loony bin clich鳠of screaming patients. Instead, Christine is in a room by herself, watching an a cappella group on TV singing Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Through a window, her dad can be seen talking to a doctor, then getting into his van and driving away. A nurse comes in and gives Christine some pills, then goes through her suitcase, sorting her clothes and examining her toiletries. Finally, left alone, Christine looks around the empty room, waiting to fall asleep. It's a brilliant, pithy translation of the girl's sense of powerlessness and solitude, one of many such evocative sequences in Assayas' film. He later stages an exuberant all-night party that carries the promise of freedom—however fleeting—for the headstrong Christine.

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