Lip Service


Easily the best teen movie of the year, Show Me Love conjures with wry, empathetic precision the careening mood swings and casual emotional sadism of growing up disgusted and hormonal in the middle of nowhere. Fourteen – year – old Elin (Alexandra Dahlstrüm) harbors a grudge for her Swedish hometown summed up in the film’s glorious original title, Fucking Amal — the mercurial mini – Bardot unleashes a barbaric yawp whenever small-town tedium gets the best of her. Elin’s cri de coeur is inadvertently answered by a loner classmate, Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg), who’s nursing a painful crush on Elin. The girls’ first encounter — a fleeting kiss in Agnes’s bedroom — results from bored, cruel impulse on Elin’s part, but the newly curious drama queen returns to apologize, and the girls spend a confessional night wandering around town that culminates in a backseat make-out session (scored, in a priceless touch, to Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is”).

Confused by her new affections, Elin soon makes use of sweet, slow – witted Johan to dispense with her virginity and avoid Agnes. The lumbering, hapless boy is one of several sharply etched secondary characters, including Agnes’s attentive father and Elin’s complacent sister, and Show Me Love brims with mordant vignettes illustrating the cowing claustrophobia of Amal. First-time writer-director Lukas Moodysson draws subtle, unmannered performances from his young actors, and loves to study their faces in close-up. Indeed, Moodysson’s tight, zoom-happy lens betrays a slightly Dogmatic ostentation, but this is a trivial flaw. Flushed with raw teenage emotion but never rose-tinted sentiment, Show Me Love leaves us with an uncertain glimpse of our heroines together, one both matter-of-fact and dreamily hopeful.

**Best known for solemn, austere dreamscapes like Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais’s latest project pays homage to Dennis Potter, who invented the postmodern musical with The Singing Detective and Pennies From Heaven. By a Brechtian twist, instead of belting out songs, Potter’s characters lip – synch to ’30s standards. Herbert Ross’s marvelous 1981 film adaptation of Pennies From Heaven is suffused with a Depression-era mix of Hollywood razzle-dazzle and everyday despair; we’re aware of both our distance from the glamorous dream promised by the genre and our foolish need to believe in it.

In Same Old Song, Resnais puts Potter’s conceit to work in contemporary Paris. Depressive Camille thinks she loves unctuous Marc, whose diffident employee Simon adores Camille; her sister, anxious Odile, frets while her husband, bemused Claude, pursues extramarital sports. Resnais explicates these travails with snippets from famous French songs both old and recent—the tunes steal in and out of the dialogue as asides, wittily evoking the plight of the forlorn lover who unwisely switches on the radio to discover that her tangled emotions are clichés long ago set to music. What the movie lacks, though, is a sense of whimsy. The lockstep camerawork and sedate performances don’t exert enough pull to lift Same Old Song above affectionate scholarly exercise and into the realm of reverie.

**Sweet dreams to you who settle in for A Girl Called Rosemarie, the exertions of which mimic a good blow to the head—first you start, then you slump. In the first five minutes, our post – WW II German heroine pummels a prison warden who tries to confiscate her gold fuck – me pumps, screws a sweaty guard to secure her release, and claws her own face. You may think you’re off to camp, but this autobahn heads straight for sleepy hollow, since once the tramp’s on her own — she keeps busy as a prostitute – cum – spy — she’s a walking, stalking Valium tab. Nina Hoss’s Rosemarie clumsily suggests Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face — both are career bed – hoppers who meet tragic ends, but Babs possessed humor and cool professionalism, and she never would have tolerated a weeping string section on her soundtrack, reminding us that, below the tough-broad exterior, the girl’s an old softie inside.