The world sometimes seems divided into two camps: those who recall their teenage years as having been an exhilarating dream, and those who remember them as having been an infernal, nightmarish hell. So it might do to describe Passe ton bac d’abord… [Graduate First… / Pass Your Bac First…] as Maurice Pialat’s “The Best Years of Our Lives”, while bearing in mind all that such a description might suggest: an unsparing portrait of the era when the words ‘sixteen candles’ still might have first conjured the image of flames.
A group of young actors including several local unknowns – Philippe Marlaud, Bernard Tronczyk, Patrick Lepczynski, and Sabine Haudepin (once the little girl of Truffaut’s Jules et Jim), among others – make up the cluster of friends adrift beneath the twilight of their school years. There’s drama, violence, and pot-induced laughs – group holidays, indiscriminate sex, advances from teachers twenty-five years their seniors, attempted moves to Paris, and few prospects of passing the bac, the final set of exams French students take before embarking into the world to… do what?
Marking the last work of Pialat’s turbulent cycle of films made in the 1970s, Passe ton bac d’abord… is the brilliant spiritual sequel to the great filmmaker’s feature-debut L’Enfance-nue – with the action taking place in the same region as the earlier film, ten years on. — Masters of Cinema
Once described as the true heir to Jean Renoir’s legacy, French filmmaker Maurice Pialat is noted for his brutal, insightful portraits of the less savory aspects of family life and French society, as well as for his ability to evoke unusually powerful and realistic performances from his actors regardless of their professional status. Pialat, who is known as one of his country’s more “difficult” directors due to both his subject matter and on-set clashes, was born in Puy-de-Dôme but raised in Paris after the age of three. He started out as a painter and jack-of-all-trades and did sporadic work as an actor. In the late ’50s, Pialat became fascinated with cinema, and he got his start making short films, notably Amour Existe (1961), which won a prize at the Venice Festival.
After spending much of the ‘60s working in French television, Pialat made his feature-film debut in 1968 with Naked Childhood, a cinema verité-style drama utilizing nonprofessional actors. A study… read more
Pialat's wonderful L'Enfance nue was about a difficult childhood and the lack of security, the sadness and bitterness experienced by it's main character, a young boy who has been abandoned by his mother. This time Pialat turns to that fragile and very complicated period of late teens/early adulthood and all the uncertainties, challenges and excitements that follow. It's a truly gifted director who's at work here!
"High Windows" translated to cinema. Somewhat of a precursor to the perilous maneuverings of Police, Pialat's youths lie and fuck and squander one another. They're all going down the long slide like free bloody birds [to happiness], and it's all just as familiar and out of reach as in Larkin's poem. Pialat has a go at those damn kids, but somewhere along the way the fist-shaking gets aimed at the deep blue air…