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What’s Alice watching through the cellar window? What’s the constant mechanical noise? Nobody, nothing, she’s just haunted by the awful noise in her head when she thinks about the long summer vacation ahead. What a waste of time: parents surround you, worse than jailers, with whom you have nothing in common except for the deadly silence of every meal; docility and passivity reign, as does constant suspicion. Teenage girls’ dreams are bloody, and Alice is truly a teenager, who drags her docility and apparent passivity around like the underwear that always trails around her ankles. What she drags around like a dead weight is, in fact, this eternal adolescence, this deep suffering… Until she meets Jim.
Alice (Charlotte Alexandre) returns home to the country for summer vacation. She’s a teenage girl, a real one, simultaneously soft and hard, with a languid lack of finish. Caught between a frustrated mother and libidinous father, she allows summer boredom to penetrate her. She fantasizes, becoming obsessed with the body, with organs, guts, blood and sperm and even the red ink of her diary. And sex, a man’s sex – that object of inevitable desire and unspeakable terror. One of her father’s laborers (played by Hiram Keller, from Fellini’s Satyricon) crystallizes her desire – she smiles as he puts a live earthworm up her vagina, she crawls for him with a feather in her derriere like a submissive chicken. Breillat shrank from nothing. Rarely has “what teen girls dream of” been shown so close up, with such brutal accuracy. It goes far, venturing into slimy, innocent obscenity. The dialogue is often inaudible, drowned out by noise. But however imperfect, Alice’s voyage to the non-wonderland of lustful adults is worth the trip. Less developed, sophisticated and clever than “Romance,” this film is a dated, ill-bred object, yet is ultimately rather affecting. The most startling thing is that, in what is now a rare decision, it has been restricted to viewers aged 16 or over. Which is all to its honor.
Danièle Heymann, “Marianne,” June 12, 2000