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March 5, 2023

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"La Boum", 1980, directed by Claude Pinoteau

An iconic film about youth, a youth that everyone has experienced or is yet to feel. "La Boum" ("The Party") shows Paris at the beginning of the 1980s and follows the growth of thirteen-year-old Vic Beretton, played by Sophie Marceau, an actress for whom this achievement paved the way to a successful career. It is a film in which we look at everyday life while focusing on the feelings of young Vic. The film's allure stems from its unique ability to convey the sentimental emotions of formative years. We can talk about the movie through the clothes the characters wear, the first relationships of the young protagonist and her friends with the boys from school, the marital entanglements of the protagonist's parents, or the unencumbered old age portrayed by her great-grandmother Poupette. However, "La Boum" is not a reflective film; we only see youth and the growing up of slightly older youth. Not too wise, not lost, or political, just ordinary and beautiful youth.

The idea for the script came naturally. One afternoon, screenwriter Danièle Thompson returned home to be greeted by her daughter's "boum": twenty teenagers had occupied the apartment without her knowledge or approval, prompting her to start working on a coming-of-age script with a focus on entertainment. However, Thompson envisioned a television series based on the popular American sitcom "Happy Days" at the time, which also deals with everyday life and growing up through the generation gap between teenagers and their parents. However, after director Claude Pinoteau read the script, he decided to delve deeper into the topic of love and talk about the difficulties of achieving it and reciprocating it across generations. He decided to create a film with no aspirations for his work to become a social phenomenon, which will eventually happen.

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Claude Pinoteau
Sophie Marceau

According to the author's testimony, the most difficult thing was finding an actress who could embody the main character, the young Vic Beretton. For days, Pinoteau and Thompson held auditions to which young girls arrived, but they did not see her in any of them. Until the last day, when young Sophie Marceau walked in with her father, at that moment without experience in the world of cinema. She lived with her parents and brother in the suburbs of Paris and went to various auditions to earn money. The moment she walked into the room, the authors knew they were looking at a sought-after protagonist. For her parents in the film, Claude Pinoteau opted for the big names of French cinema, Claude Brasseur and Brigitte Fossey, and the charming great-grandmother was played by Denise Gray. This is how a film line-up was created that bore the name, and still bears, "The Berettons", the family we follow in the cult coming-of-age story.

Sophie Marceau and Claude Brasseur
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Sophie Marceau and Claude Pinoteau

Filming began in the summer of 1980. In the first frame, the director invites us to a morning in Paris while we listen to the sound of the school bell and see from a bird's eye view the Henry IV school and the grandiose Panthéon in the fifth arrondissement of Paris. Most of the film's action takes place in its surroundings since it is the new home of the Berettons, who moved from Versailles to the hustle and bustle of the city. Pinoteau transports us to the first day of school when young Vic meets her best friend Penelope, with whom she immediately begins talking about boys and falling in love. The only thing preoccupying them is whether they will be invited to the "boum" organized by one of their popular classmates. On the other hand, the authors of the film show the marital discord experienced by Vic's parents without diminishing the cheerfulness of the film. Her mother, the ambitious and slightly uptight illustrator Françoise, learns that her husband Francois (who plays a dentist in the film) was 'accidentally' unfaithful. However, when the parents' problems become apparent to their daughter, she is less upset than we might expect. Her first and only concern is how their separation will affect "la boum". In the film, Vic's great-grandmother Poupette, a lively and smiling lady, acts as a bridge between her and her parents, telling Vic how to persuade her parents to let her go to the party, while her great-granddaughter confides in her all her secrets about her first crush on the charming Mathieu.

"La Boum", 1982

The humour in "La Boum" is undeniable; it is not at the highest level that the seventh art can offer, but it is inventive, everyday, sincere, and thus real. The most exciting scene in the film is related to a party for which young Vic eventually obtains her parents' permission. At the party, the boy she meets there (Mathieu) surprises her on the dance floor by putting on headphones to the song "Reality," written exclusively for the film by composer Vladimir Cosma. They fall in love while isolated from the rest of the world, while others dance and sway to the beat of another, more powerful song. The song "Reality" became a sentimental pop music classic and achieved commercial success in Europe and Asia: it was played on all radio stations, and the record sold up to eight million copies. It should also be noted that the Walkman, which was introduced in Japan in 1979, gained popularity in France because of the film and cult scene. However, the film's initial release in theatres proved to be a flop. Indeed, the authors were so dissatisfied that it was announced that the movie posters in front of the cinema halls would be removed. But, word of mouth gradually ensured the film's success, thanks to the song "Reality", which was broadcast on the radio. Audiences quickly flocked to French cinemas, enjoying the song that plays consistently throughout the film whenever Vic and her crush are near each other. The film soon gained international acclaim and became a massive hit in Asia. Encouraged by the film's success, the authors decided to make a sequel, "La Boum 2", which was released in 1982 and focused on the growing up of a few years older Vic and her new love, her finally happier parents, and her still-flirty great-grandmother, as well as constant clothing solutions, for which both films are remembered.

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"La Boum", 1980

After the two friends are invited to the main "boum", a hurried and happy Vic suddenly changes her mood as the camera zooms in on her face and says wistfully: "I have nothing to wear". Soon after, she chooses outfits for the Saturday night party with her mom, from disco-silver sets to geisha looks and other extravagant solutions. Vic eventually – appears in her uniform – a blue linen shirt, red velvet trousers and Stan Smith sneakers. Throughout the film, she is dressed in her uniform, mixing masculinity and femininity; we see her in shirts, her favourite denim jacket, dark blue jeans, knitted cardigans, a white T-shirt, and a K-Way jacket. She is always casual and unpretentious, with an attitude that makes each of these outfits irresistible. Meanwhile, her mother, Françoise, also mixes men's and women's clothing, emphasising elegance by unmistakably combining colours and materials (she is a favourite in aviator-style glasses while drawing and silk scarves that she wears in several different ways). The costume design for the optimistic great-grandmother Poupette perfectly matches her character, she does not shy away from maximalism, and she shows us exaggeration in details and bright colours. But at the same time, she favourites a Lacoste white set, which is also her most natural clothing choice. Lacoste appears in several scenes in both films. While the boys in the class enjoy the famous polo T-shirts of various colours, Francois, Vic's father, also combines Lacoste T-shirts with his jackets and 501, as well as the Burberry trench coat in which he appears in both parts of the film. The costume design in "La Boum" dramatically helps to explain the generational gap that is the focus of its content because it separates three different generations and, through it, outlines the character of the characters.

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Vic Beretton ("La Boum", 1980)
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Françoise Beretton ("La Boum", 1980)
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Francois Beretton ("La Boum", 1980)
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Poupette ("La Boum", 1980)

Indeed, more than forty years after its premiere, "La Boum" has passed through generations but still enjoys cult status. The culture of communication, language, and attitude toward others has changed today, primarily through social media and during first loves. You only attend your first parties with your phone, and everything is less natural and not in the moment. The success of "La Boum" is most likely due to its simplicity and unpretentiousness, the everydayness of a long time ago. The film sympathetically conveys the spirit of a bygone era of carefree youth in Paris, which is both difficult and beautiful. Beautiful from the perspective of older people, challenging in the eyes of younger people, for whom the problems of falling in love for the first time seem insoluble. It is probably successful primarily because the formative years' emotions are no different from those experienced in the early 1980s.

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