SPRING BLOSSOM (SEIZE PRINTEMPS) (2020)
Starring Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot, Florence Viala, Rebecca Marder, Arthur Giusi-Périer, Pauline Rugo, Dominique Besnehard, Philippe Uchan, Françoise Widhoff, Raymond Aquaviva, Valentin Brekke, Louise Milot, Michael Perez and Damien Carlet.
Screenplay by Suzanne Lindon.
Directed by Suzanne Lindon.
Distributed by KimStim Films. 73 minutes. Not Rated.
The central storyline of Spring Blossom (Seize printemps) had the potential to be uncomfortable to watch. Instead, it turns out to be a sweet and idealistic and just slightly naïve look at the first love – or perhaps first infatuation – of a young girl.
Which makes sense, because it was written and directed by – and stars – a young girl. Suzanne Lindon was 20 when Spring Blossom was filmed, but she was only 15 when she wrote the screenplay. Therefore, its sense of love is a bit overdramatic, hushed and overpowering – just the way that a first crush feels.
Lindon plays Suzanne, a bookish Parisian schoolgirl, who is young and pretty but feels awkward and shy and out of place with her fellow students. She is starting to blossom into young sexuality, and she is having trouble figuring out her place in the world. She doesn’t feel comfortable at parties, and yet she feels she must go to fit in. She doesn’t like the boys her age, but they are the only ones she knows. She gets tired of her girlfriends discussing the intricacies of teen mating rituals, but she knows she should be caught up in them, too.
One day, while walking past a local theater, she notices Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), the handsome star of a play which is currently running. She becomes a little obsessive (in a cute but slightly stalkerish way); hanging around the playhouse, passive-aggressively hinting to her parents that she wants to go to the theater, finding out what café Raphaël goes to and what food he likes to eat, watching him fix his scooter, sneaking in to watch rehearsals.
Raphaël is obviously frustrated and bored with the play and his life.
Then one day when she is at the café while he is eating (she makes a point of sitting at the table next to him), he notices her. They start to talk. They talk some more. They agree to meet the next day. Soon, they are nearly inseparable, spending time with each other daily.
Spring Blossom is a surprisingly chaste movie, and it is all the better for it. It doesn’t delve into the potential creepiness of a 35-year-old man being intrigued by a 16-year-old girl, although that concern is always there for the audience. (Which, granted, is more our hang-up than it is on them.) And, let’s face it, French films have a long history of relationships with older men and younger women, but Spring Blossom neatly evades most of the potentially queasy aspects of the situation.
What happens between Suzanne and Raphaël is much more romantic and idealistic than it is something lecherous – which probably stems from the fact that the story is told entirely from her perspective. There is no sex and very little kissing (and most of that is on the cheek). Really the only overtly physical acts on display are longing looks, the laying of a head on a shoulder, the body language of awkward silences and periodically spontaneously breaking into remarkably complex synchronized dances.
Suzanne is a little mature for her age, and Raphaël is a bit immature for his. They sort of work in a strange way, but is there any possible future there?
In the long run, it probably doesn’t even matter. Spring Blossom is sort of like a YA romance novel brought to life on the screen. Raphaël is important to Suzanne’s growth as a young woman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be there to see all that growth take place.
At times Spring Blossom has all the hushed, emotional gravitas of a teenaged girl’s diary. It leaves many questions unanswered – both figuratively and literally; there are several times in the film that a scene is cut during a long pause before someone speaks, leaving the audience to ruminate on the silence. Also, more than once, Suzanne makes big life decisions for apparently completely arbitrary reasons, or at least because she is reading more into a situation than might be there due to a certain amount of romantic naïveté.
Raphaël can sometimes be a bit of a cipher. We know what is in the relationship for her, but we don’t always see what is in it for him – other than the fact that she is young and pretty and obviously into him. However, he’s an actor and a mini-celebrity in the area, there must be other more age-appropriate women who would be interested in him. Also, he does not seem to have devious or sexual designs for Suzanne. As I said earlier their relationship seems to be more courtly than it is erotic.
In the end, Spring Blossom feels a bit slight as a coming-of-age film, and that is not just because it runs an extremely short 73 minutes long. For all that happens here, the audience has a sense that not all that much has really happened. The characters – particularly Suzanne – have learned and grown and felt emotionally touched, but have they really changed all that much?
Like the flowers referenced in the title, Spring Blossom has a sweet and slightly tart bouquet, but its beauty and significance are a bit ephemeral. Things change and life moves on and what seems essential now may not seem to be so later. The movie shows great promise for Lindon – both as an actress and as a filmmaker – but I look forward to seeing what she will be able to accomplish with a little more experience under her belt.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 20, 2021.