Based on the novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, Ete 85 (Summer of 85) is the story of a 16-year old boy who is rescued by an 18-year old boy in Normandy as they embark on a romance but also a pact in the case one of them dies soon. Written for the screen and directed by Francois Ozon, the film is a coming-of-age tale set during a moment in time as two young men make a pact while also being in love with one another. Starring Felix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Isabelle Nanty, Melvil Poupaud, and Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi. Ete 85 is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Francois Ozon.
The film is the story of a young man who is arrested as it relates to the death of another young man he met in the summer as he tells a case worker and his teacher about what happened in this summer in which he fell in love. It is a film that explore this relationship between two young men and a pact they would make in case one of them dies where something did happen. Francois Ozon’s screenplay has this back-and-forth reflective narrative where its 16-year old protagonist Alexis Robin (Felix Lefebvre) is arrested where he talks to a case worker (Aurore Broutin) about what happened though he is reluctant to divulge into information about his relationship with the 18-year old David Gorman (Benjamin Voisin).
Alexis met David when the former was on a boat that capsized as he was saved by the latter as the two become friends with David’s mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) taking a liking to Alexis thinking he would be a good influence on her son. Alexis doesn’t tell his parents (Isabelle Nanty and Laurent Fernandez) about David fearing that his more conservative father would disapprove. The script reveals the pact that they created but also Alexis’ own reluctance to open up as his literature professor Lefevre (Melvil Poupaud) suggests writing about what happened and such. Notably as a young English au pair in Kate (Philippine Velge) was thrown into the mix that created tension between the two young men.
Ozon’s direction definitely bear some style in terms of the looseness of his overall presentation yet a lot of it is straightforward as it is shot on location in Normandy. There are wide and medium shots as it capture the scope of these locations along with some intimate shots at a fishing shop that David’s mother own where Alexis would work at. There are close-ups in Ozon’s direction as it play into the drama where Alexis is being interrogated but also in some emotional moments in the film. There are different tones that Ozon maintain throughout the film with the second act being this lively and romantic film as it relates to these two young men just falling in love but also complications as David is someone that wants to experience different things that include Kate. It would be the source of chaos that would loom throughout the film as well as what happened to David.
Ozon’s approach to the scenes where Alexis is being questioned and interrogated are a bit more claustrophobic in its framing as if the world is closing on Alexis. Notably as he becomes distant with his parents worrying about him including his own father, despite his own conservative views on life, as he tries to reach out to David’s mother. Ozon also play into this pact that Alexis and David make as it is a strange promise the two made but one that needs to be honored. Even as its aftermath ends up being a moment of growth where Ozon ends the film on a cold day signifying not just the end of the summer but the end of a part of Alexis’ life but also the beginning of a new adventure. Overall, Ozon crafts a somber yet intoxicating film about a young man who falls in love with another man during a whirlwind summer in Normandy.
Cinematographer Hichame Alaouie does amazing work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of colorful lighting for some of the scenes at night as well as some natural lighting for some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes. Editor Laure Gardette does excellent work with the editing with some jump-cuts as well as other rhythmic cuts to play into the drama and the light-hearted moments in the film. Production designer Benoit Barouh, with set decorator Frederic Delerue and art director Teddy Barouh, does fantastic work with the look of the fishing shop owned by David’s mother as well as the homes of David and Alexis. Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does brilliant work with the costumes as it play into the look of the 1980s as well as a dress that Alexis would wear for a key scene in the film’s third act.
Visual effects supervisor Mikael Tanguy does terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it is largely bits of set dressing for some of the exteriors to give it a 1980s look and feel. The sound work of Jean-Paul Hurier and Brigitte Taillander do superb work with the film’s sound in playing to the atmosphere of the film’s locations as well as how music would sound at a club and on location. The film’s music by Jean-Benoit Dunckel is wonderful for its low-key orchestral score that play into the drama and romance while the music soundtrack feature music from the Cure, Bananarama, Rod Stewart, and French/Euro pop music of the 1980s.
The casting by Elodie Demey and Anais Duran is incredible as it feature some notable small roles from Antoine Simon as a drunk that Alexis and David meet early in the film, Yoann Zimmer as a friend of Alexis in Luc who doesn’t like gays, Bruno Lochet as a man named Bruno who runs a morgue, Laurent Fernandez as Alexis’ stern yet caring father, Isabelle Nanty as Alexis’ warm and loving mother, and Aurore Broutin as a case worker who is handling Alexis’ case as she tries to find answers knowing the severity of his crime. Melvil Poupaud is superb in his small role as Alexis’ literature teacher who is convinced that something did happen as he knows that the only way to get an answer was for Alexis to write about it. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is fantastic as David’s mother as a woman who is enthralled by the presence of Alexis believing he would be a good influence of her son while later be ravaged by grief and seeking answers. Philippine Velge is excellent as Kate as a British tourist whom Alexis befriends as she unknowingly attracts the attention of David as she didn’t realize she would be the source of tension between Alexis and David.
Finally, there’s the duo of Felix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin in incredible performances in their respective roles as Alexis Robin and David Gorman. Voisin provides an energetic performance as the wilder David as a young 18-year old who is trying to find himself but also is someone who wants to evolve and seek new adventures. Lefebvre’s performance as the 16-year old Alexis is a bit more reserved as someone that is just trying to figure himself out but would also be emotional as it relates to loss and heartbreak. Lefebvre and Voisin together are electrifying in the way they react towards one another but also in how much these two men love each other.
Ete 85 is a sensational film from Francois Ozon. Featuring a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, a study of young love and identity during the 1980s, and a wondrous music soundtrack. It is a film that is this fascinating coming-of-age story that play into young love but also the idea of promises and its effect on many. In the end, Ete 85 is a phenomenal film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool (2003 film) - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - Le Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) – (Frantz (2016 film)) – (Double Lover) – (By the Grace of God) – (Everything Went Fine) – (Peter von Kant) – The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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This sounds really sweet. I'd like to see it.
I'm not sure if it's still available on Showtime but I really enjoyed it as it's one of Ozon's finest films as I just love his work and I need to catch up on the films that I haven't seen yet.
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