This inspired film seems even a bit brave for today’s times, at times daring the viewer to recoil at this young woman’s emerging sense of agency as she navigates the streets of Paris, as she navigates from adolescence to adulthood. What she discovers is a place of male predators (and one funny and brief female) who mistake their oppressive sense of entitlement and sexual interests for adventure and philosophy.
These are improvised performances, with all the human embarrassment we get to see in (say) Leigh or Linklater, later. Also notable for how Nadine, prey to a set of pick-ups, resists victimization: How about we leave Paris right now? she says. Upon which the men, shocked, wriggle, But you don't even like me. Brilliant of Rouch to give Nadine his ethnographer's role, and near balletic POV camerawork throughout.
The film's genius lies its subtle critique of gendered interactions that many viewers will consider normal. These men attempt to convince, cajole, and shame Nadine into fitting into a nymphic trope. However, she is uninterested in their machinations, and at the end is justifiably disgusted by male regard. Her young school friend offers a compelling alternative: he does not need Nadine to fit into a predefined role.
I was expecting a feature-length film about cat calls and harassment. What a relief to have that only in the last 10 minutes of the movie. How lucky she is that the three men she spends time with are fairly innocuous. What's truly frightening is Rouch's last voice over which implies that in real life she would be punished by being raped ("taking his pleasure with her"). Great camerawork and pacing.
Swines. Even Rouch, who presents this sympathetic and wry critique, turns out to have been a predator himself: https://hyperallergic.com/411343/how-the-art-world-and-art-schools-are-ripe-for-sexual-abuse/ At least we have Nadine’s powerful performance of resistance.
Rouch turns his ethnographic focus to Parisian life, as an aimless young girl is approached by three men, none of whom understand her desire to leave France. This is a film about the male gaze, with improvised performances and scenes which are uncomfortably misogynist (especially the desirous offscreen narrator). But it lacks the force of Rouch's African films, and comes across as a less disciplined Cleo 5 to 7.