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The First Time

36 Fillette – Histoire(s) du cinéma: Locarno70

The First Time

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Too intimate, too shameless and too direct in confronting the public with the taboo of teenage girls in relationships with adult men. When 36 Fillette was first shown at Locarno, reactions were fairly cold. A few dissenting voices stood out from the majority of negative criticism: Skorecki and Daney recognized in the screenwriter (and novelist) the capacity and the courage to delve into her obsessions and film something truly challenging. Not the mechanics of sex, but how it reflects on people’s faces.

At the centre of the story in 36 Fillette is Lili, 14 years old, a sea of desires mixed up with doubts, and just one certainty: the eagerness to grow up, immediately. Between her and her objective (losing her virginity) are a series of men: her older brother, GiPé, half accomplice, half oppressor; Maurice, a playboy in his 40s; and Boris Goluvine, a pianist played by Jean-Pierre Léaud. Plus a violent and tender father, splendidly portrayed by Jean-Pierre Stévenin.

Coming after two films that, verging on X-rated, found little visibility, 36 Fillette was the film that launched the career of Catherine Breillat, one of the most consistent of directors in her desire to navigate the ridge that separates and unites the visible and the invisible, the public and the private, the intimate and the obscene. 

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