La belle saison (2015)

18 Apr

labellesaison

La belle saison may look like a balmy summer day dream, but it’s a harmful cliché wrapped in soft focus and sepia tones.

I should say that there will be spoilers ahead, but you can already guess what will happen in Catherine Corsini’s La belle saison from a quick glance at the cover. Delphine (Izïa Higelin) and Carole (Cécile de France) are a classic country mouse/town mouse pairing. It’s 1971 and Delphine makes her first move from the French countryside to the big smoke of Paris, where in an act of serendipity she meets Carole, a Spanish teacher and militant feminist. Delphine is drawn into Carole’s world of activism and falls hard for the beguiling older woman. But when Delphine’s father has a stroke and she is forced to return home to help on the farm, and it’s here that the wheels fall off the film.

Delphine and Carole continue their affair secretly in Delphine’s small home town. The locals are predictably narrow minded when the pair are discovered, and the pressure forces the lovers apart. This is a tired, old trope, and one that needs to be put out to pasture.

In 2017 there is no reason why we should still only be telling stories about gay people where the tensions and conflicts are caused by their sexuality and the pressure society puts on them to be heterosexual. There’s also no reason why gay stories can’t have happy endings. I’m not saying all films need to be this way, just that they can’t all be the other way if we want to start moving forward in the way gay people are treated not only in cinema, but also in society as a whole. Just as with heterosexual dramas, there are endless narrative possibilities. Tension can be created through one protagonist becoming ill; getting an irresistible job offer in a far flung land; or just being an asshole. Just as in heterosexual films, there should be the possibility that everything works out, that maybe the pair just stay together; work out their differences; or even elope.

When I was watching La belle saison I was reminded of Snoop Dogg’s comments following the release of the Roots remake. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially the Dogg said that rather than focusing on how white people had kept black people down, that we should make art that reflects who black people are today, if we want to move forward. The same applies to gay people in the arts. We’ve already made this film a thousand times over, it’s time to create a new cinematic order that reflects who gay people are today, rather than dwelling on the past.

 

Ed.

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