"PETIT CON" is the bitter creation of French cartoonist Gerard Lauzier who adapted this dark, hormonal comedy from his comic strip book "Souvenirs d'un Jeune Homme." Its hero is a despicable, self- centered brat whose abusive adolescence and attempted suicide drive his sweet parents mad.
Bernard Brieux is 18-year-old Michel, an intellectual and sexual innocent whose relationship with his father (Guy Marchand) is the principal source of friction in the home. Michel squirms in the bourgeois comfort of the "family gulag," supported by his detested father, an oil company executive who, in his son's mind, "exploits the Third World." Dad, a decent, baffled guy, tries to communicate at the urging of a family counselor, but junior scorns him.
By American standards, this sort of pseudo- intellectual, anti-capitalistic angst is the stuff of the '60s. Nowadays young people are junior coffee achievers who would rather feed the world than whine about world hunger. But the film debunks the notion of flower power to some degree when Michel learns that his alternative family -- an enclave of aging hippies -- are child abusers, voyeurs and sundry perverts. As with so much of the film, this seems cruel and extreme.
But in the end, it's the dissolution of Michel's experimental menage a trois that finally drives him over the edge. Souad Amidou is provocative as one-third of the grouping, a sultry Algerian juvenile delinquent who moves in with Michel, then invites her lover Jeannot to join them. Daniel Auteuil is effective, if venal, as Jeannot, a coarse ex-convict who taunts Michel with raunchy barbs and smutty asides. Naturally, when Jeannot and the girl move south, Michel is broken-hearted.
Seldom is breaking away so full of venom. And while it is universally a painful process, is is it really this painful? And do we need to see it over and over again? Can't we just refer interested parties to such stellar examples of the genre as "Sixteen Candles" and "Gregory's Girl"? Please.
PETIT CON (R) -- In French with English subtitles at the West End Circle.