Peppermint Soda is a real gem which seems to have been lost until now. I hadn’t even heard of it before but I’m certain this new BFI release will give the film a new audience. It’s directed by actress turned director Diane Kurys and it’s loosely based on her adolescence during the early ’60s in France.
The film is undeniably light on the plot but it’s high on emotion and has a very honest sense of teenage girl giddiness. It’s helped enormously by the performances of Eléonore Klarwein and Odile as the teenage sisters Anne and Frédérique. Anne is reserved and on the cusp of puberty. She is finally getting her first period which plays a big role in the narrative. Frédérique is starting to have her first relationships is becoming aware of politics despite it not being taught about them in schools.
The girls are very much based on the director and her sister’s experiences in the early ’60s. Their parents were also divorced like the ones in the film. Like much of the youth in ’60s Paris she was radicalized during the events of May ’68 but also saw through some of the aspects of it;; later on calling it “revolution bourgeois”. Unlike most woman directors but like the Czech director Věra Chytilová she had ambivalence to feminism and their films being labeled “women’s cinema”. She hasn’t been considered even an “auteur” or spoken in the same breath as her contemporary Agnès Varda.
However I’m sure that will change when more people see this film and check out her other work, she is still making films today. It’s a perfect counter to Truffaut’s masterful debut The 400 Blows which the that film’s final moments are mirrored in Peppermint Soda. I do already see it having an influence on some American filmmakers like Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson, I don’t know if that’s true it’s just speculation. It’s also a film with fun cinéaste jokes including one of the girls trying to remember the title of Alain Resnais’ film Murial.
The disc includes a long interview with Kurys and a shorter feature of her exploring her photographs and production materials. It rounded off with a big booklet with new essays on the film.