I’d give everyone a five.
How do you know a relationship sparked with another is truly love and not merely the absence of the listlessness you felt before its creation—a mere distraction? The answer is probably a simple case of seeing with objective eyes and feeling with an unencumbered heart, but those aren’t easy things to possess while the excitement of the moment remains fresh. So sixteen-year old Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) will continue longing for the serious stranger standing outside the theater on her way to school regardless. And thirty-five-year old Raphaël (Arnaud Valois) will continue to smile whenever the innocent girl who stares at him from a distance turns up at the edge of his vision. They will kiss each other hello, dance in each other’s arms, and forget their troubles.
Or is “avoid their troubles” a better turn of phrase? Maybe for Seize printemps [Spring Blossom] writer/director Lindon (who wrote the script at fifteen and performed it at twenty), it’s a mix of both. Because it isn’t as though they are harming one another. It’s nice to have an admirer. It’s nice to have someone outside the daily grind of your life to talk to with honesty as an escape rather than a companion. They’re bored of their existences and the people who travel within the circles to which they adhere and thus become a uniquely essential piece to the other’s puzzle as it begins to separate at the seams. There is power in that reality outside of lustful fantasies or sexual tension. It’s an intangible wake-up call.
There’s a delicate philosophical rite of passage that occurs on-screen as a result. Suzanne and Raphaël aren’t a couple. What they experience together isn’t a courtship. They’re just two people who find themselves inexplicably drawn to the other as much for the mystery of who they are as the boredom of every one else. It’s not like they don’t try to find this spark elsewhere either. Suzanne goes to hang out with friends and attend the parties she never made time for before. She puts in the effort only to find her fears confirmed: the banality of her peers’ hollow conversations and want to get drunk isn’t appealing as a means of spending time. They talk about boys and nonsense. Raphaël speaks of culture and art.
Except, as we soon discover, he doesn’t really do either. The pair doesn’t really talk about anything. They just look into each other’s eyes and pay attention. They look at the other as a person with wants and ambitions rather than cogs in a system as either student or actor—roles their minds have begun to reject outright and without an exit. Lindon’s film seeks to capture the indelible spirit of this rare mutual understanding without labeling it something that it’s not because forcing them into romance only to watch things crumble won’t benefit anyone. It’s better to have the moment, cherish the moment, and realize that’s all it was: a moment. Yes it was intense and crucial, but it was also fleeting. Its purpose was never longevity.
Lindon shoots it like a dream with Suzanne frolicking down the street to music as a manifestation of her excitement and a tandem, choreographed interpretative dance on-stage and at the café depicting her and Raphaël in-sync and yet also alone. There’s great humor too in how Suzanne’s family reacts to her changing mood and actions. Her sister Marie (Rebecca Marder) laughs with a knowing look at her younger sibling’s obvious infatuation while her parents (Frédéric Pierrot and Florence Viala) find themselves unable to decipher what’s happening as anything more than a peculiarity. And why shouldn’t they? It’s not like Suzanne is rebelling. She won’t even ride Raphaël’s scooter thanks to their protective voices bouncing around her head. Suzanne is spreading her wings, but still too cautious to fly.
Spring Blossom might feel slight to some because of this truth—as if Suzanne’s innocence needs to be shattered in order for the journey to be worthwhile. I think that’s a very American way of seeing things, though. Scars aren’t the only means with which to grow. Love isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Human beings are complicated creatures. We can experience life through another’s eyes as an extension of ourselves, but we can also do so through our own eyes with their assistance. By being together for this brief time in their lives, Suzanne and Raphaël can remember what it is to be alive without sabotaging the lives they live. Boredom isn’t a cause for implosion. It’s instead a reaction to one’s need to alter his/her perspective.
That’s what makes Lindon’s work such a lovely piece of cinematic intrigue. Its success is in the quiet revelations of Suzanne’s heart rather than the loud possibilities of her body. She doesn’t want to escape her life as a teenager attending school and co-habiting with a family that would do anything for her. She’s smart enough to know that letting Raphaël in as more than a secret risks all that. Suzanne is mature enough to realize that which she gained by spending this time with him far outweighs that which she’ll lose through the tears of letting go. Maybe it’s quaint in an era where coming of age films are all about sex and hedonistic pleasures, but it’s also a beautifully rendered contrast told straight from her soul.
courtesy of TIFF