Review by Nancy Legato
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Wednesday, 10/20/2004, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
French with English subtitles
CLARA’S SUMMER REVISITS that fraught period of teenage female sexuality, when girls who are best friends suddenly have to decide to walk on the wild side together or give each other up for boys. For Clara (Selma Brook) and Zoe (Stephanie Sokolinski), that moment arrives when they go away to summer sports camp. All the teens on the trip view the week away from parental oversight as their chance to hook up together. Zoe is no exception, and has her sights set on Sebastien (Leo Grandperret), leaving Clara much to her own devices. Clara, meanwhile, begins a tentative friendship with Sonia (Salome Stévenin), a girl who seems to hold herself separate from the other kids on the trip — and who has been identified as a lesbian by that group. In the midst of the fishbowl existence of a pack of lustful, gossipy, and cruel teenagers, Clara has to decide how to characterize her feelings for Zoe, for Sonia, and for men and women in general.
Under the direction of Patrick Grandperret and the guidance of Nathalie Stragier’s realistic script, the teens of Clara’s Summer mercilessly hound one another into submission to groupthink about sex, sexuality and ethics. Everyone sleeps together, everyone betrays one another, and everyone then lies about their motivations. Even Clara can’t escape the moral dilemmas as she fights against her own instincts to be with a woman, then gives in to them, and then tries to lie about it when the mocking and ever-present scrutiny of the group discovers her secret. Eventually, her double-talk creates such a mess, we wonder whether and how she’ll be able to make things up with Sonia — a question the filmmakers resolve with unexpected invention.