Q&A with Radley Metzger on August 9.
Writer Violette Leduc’s censored autobiographical 1955 novel of sexual awakening and lesbian passion brought Metzger to Paris to tell the story of sensitive, forlorn Therese (Essy Persson), who is abandoned by her newly married mother and businessman stepfather at a high-class boarding school. She’s immediately befriended by class minx Isabelle (Anna Gael) and develops a crush on the more worldly girl. When an encounter with suave Pierre (Rémy Longa) at a nearby bar leads to a traumatic first sexual experience, Therese turns to Isabelle, acting on the erotic attraction between them in a succession of increasingly explicit Sapphic trysts. Delicately building a charged eroticism, Metzger’s direction fuses the classicism of his elegant black-and-white camerawork and George Auric’s sweeping score with the modernism of the film’s time-shifting narrative—and while they may be just a shade too old to pass for adolescent schoolgirls, Persson and Gael share a potent chemistry and sensuousness that makes the film genuinely intense.