BAD SEEDS (Mauvaises Herbes)
Once in a while a movie comes along that speaks to you.
Sometimes, it's a big, important movie like The Godfather or quiet important movie like Howard's End.
And sometimes, it is just the right movie at the right time. In 1978, my wife and I went to see a movie and it was sold out, so we looked at what other movies we could see and for unknown reasons we selected a French comedy because I recognized one of the actor's name - Ugo Tognazzi. The movie was La Cage aux Folles. If you have never seen the original French movie, give yourself a New Year's present, see it.
Forty years later, lightning struck again, but this time surfing the innumerable choices on TV with my sister, looking for anything that wasn't about sadistic murderers or alien invasions. And, viola! There was Mauvaises Herbes or Bad Seeds, another French movie, this time taking place in Paris instead of Nice and on Netflix instead of a movie theatre. What drew us in was its female lead, Catherine Deneuve, looking every bit as beautiful as she has always been, but a beauty tempered by time and experience.
The story was simple - she and a thirty-ish Arab refugee, Wael, (Kheiron who also wrote and directed) have a neat scam that trades on people's prejudices about elderly woman and immigrants. When they get caught, it's not by the cops, but by an old male acquaintance of Deneuve's who threatens to turn them into the police unless they help him. He runs a summer program for 'bad seeds', six problem teens who are close to dropping out of school.
Wael becomes their teacher and his first challenge is to get the kids to speak - they have banned together, promising not to say a word. Wael solves this problem ingeniously then goes on to teach the wayward teens lessons in life.
Interspersed with this story is the story of a small boy in an unstated Arab country that is being torn apart by violence. His family is murdered and he has to live on the streets. How he does that and how he gets brought to an orphanage run by nuns is the parallel story from the boy's point of view.
Add into the mix a corrupt cop, a story of autumnal love, a neat trick to getting an attractive girl's phone number, six troubled but fascinating teens and just the right amount of menace and mayhem - and Viola!
Just as forty years ago, I was left with a warm glow that made me think not all is Trumpian gloom, that there is a way to find a life both fulfilling and sustainable, that the good, by adapting itself to this crooked world, can prevail.
I know, it's just a movie.