Olivia

Director: Jacqueline Audry

Courtesy of: Les Films de Jeudi | English Subtitles | French | Lesbian | Retrospective | Unclassified 15+ | 95 | France | 1951

Synopsis

BRING IT BACK – RESTORED CLASSICS

There’s a hint of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock in this beautifully restored French classic that explores the ‘it’s complicated’ intertwining personal lives of a group of excitable boarding schoolgirls.

Enter sweet-hearted English teenager Olivia, whose arrival at the school sparks a war between duelling mistresses, headteacher Julie and her subordinate Cara; the latter ensconced in her frilly bedroom, apparently ill.

With more than a suggestion that there’s a bit more than professional differences between them in their fraught history, anticipation hangs in the air. When Olivia fixates on one over the other, it sets in train an emotionally wrought spiral that soon spins out of control.

Adapted from the controversy-sparking 1949 novel by an initially pseudonymous Dorothy Bussy, director Jacqueline Audry and her sister, writer Colette, intimately grasp the complexities of female attraction and teenage abandon. Never condescending, and surprisingly forthright for its time, you’ll not want to miss this retrospective queer gem.

Review

A work of bold, barely repressed sensuality, in which the simmering, unspoken, but ever-present love between women threatens to boil over. – Film Comment

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