PEPPERMINT SODA - In French, with subtitles, at the Jenifer Cinema II
Nothing mementous, but a lot of small, crucial things happed in the lives of two sisters, aged 13 and 15, living with their divorced mother in Paris in 1963.
They have crushes and friendships that change or die. They hear of political unrest and pin on peace buttons. They play on their father's guilt to get him to take them skiing. The school is losing its iron hold of disclipline. Some teachers still scare them, others interest them. Their mother despairs when they get into trouble and takes pride at their achievements. Their moods bounce chaotically. They strain to act older than they are. They trade sexual misinformation in the schoolyard.
All this is sensitively depicted in Diane Kurys' film, "Peppermint Soda," and subtly portrayed by two young actresses, Eleonore Klarwein and Odile Michel. A year in their lives is covered in episodic fashion, leaving the girls without dramatic change but with an important year's worth of development.
The film depicts their vacations by the technique of flipping posed, still photographs -- the typically stilted holiday pictures that people take of their children, showing only happy highlights. In contrast, the rest of the "scrapbook," made of short, dramatized interludes, is touchingly realistic.
But the pleasures of flipping through someone scrapbook, however accurately and pleasingly it may be pasted together is limited. A scrapbook doesn't get into people's hearts. They remain strangers. We can't even tell their friends apart, let along remember their names.
There is not the slighest attempt at inserting dramatic structure into the film. Putting in the kind of test that illustrates a problem or character would, presumable, ruin its careful truthfulness. And so for two hours, we look at the family album, smiling here with recognition and there with appreciation, but, like the young heroines, never learning anything other than what they feel like -- which is, of course, like the peppermint sodas they drink, partly sharp and partly sweet.