Nostalgia on the Left Bank


Mina Tannenbaum
Directed by Martine Dugowson
Starring Romane Bohringer and Elsa Zylberstein
Opens in late July at the Pitt Centre, Sydney
Reviewed by Pip Hinman

This story of the friendship between two girls, Mina and Ethel, who both come from Jewish families, was disappointing. While the scene is set for director Martine Dugowson to make some sense of the life and times of these two young women, she pulls her punches, making me wonder, later, whether I had missed something important.

The girls meet at dance school in their early teens. Mina, who wants to paint instead, and Ethel, on the outer because of her chubbiness, develop a friendship born of mutual ostracism.

Both also have to put up with extremely domineering mothers — relationships which neither successfully escapes from even in later life. As Dugowson puts it, "The characters in the film are prisoners of their childhood. They never liberate themselves."

While Mina and Ethel advise and confide in each other through their first emotional entanglements, their relationship, with all its jealousies and insecurities, remains static as they mature, perhaps explaining the rather bizarre finale.

Set in trendy Left Bank Paris, Mina is obviously seeking to capitalise on nostalgia for the '60s and '70s. But a glimpse of May-June 1968 posters, and Mina's offhand comment, "If I looked like Bardot, I might not be a feminist", are about as deep a political exploration into those stormy consciousness-raising days as you get.

This, together the rather strange theatrical effects — which don't really work — make me believe that Dugowson is more interested in form than content. An introspective film with not a lot new discovered.

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