After winning a Palme d'Or for his masterful The Class, which looked at France in microcosm-form in a banlieue school, French director Laurent Cantet again keeps his camera focused on young rebels in his latest outing, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang.
Shot in Ontario, Canada, which convincingly stands in for Smalltown, U.S.A. (upstate New York in the novel) in the 1950s, the film adapts the novel by Joyce Carol Oates and is Cantet's second Anglophone project after Heading South (which was in a mixture of French and English).
Like The Class, Cantet has decided to again work with young adolescents without any acting experience, which adds a layer of veracity in his contemporary look at France and its education system in his Cannes winner but which works less well here, given that today's girls are not exactly the same as those in the 1950s, especially a nostalgia-tinged 1950s culled from a literary work, with some of especially the supporting roles coming across as much too modern.
That said, young Raven Adamson, who plays the charismatic and rebellious leader of the gang, Legs, is certainly a find. Throughout the different kinds of trouble she gets the girls into, she always seems to be guided by a combination of instincts and a vision of what Foxfire (the name of the secret gang) should and can be.
Quite long at 143 minutes, the film nonetheless benefits from the impeccable production design of Franckie Diago (who already worked with Cantet on Heading South) and the fluidity of the work of the director's regular cinematographer Pierre Milon.
Read more exclusive contents on cineuropa.org.