La Tete Haute (Standing Tall), a rough and sensitive film by Emmanuelle Bercot featuring Catherine Deneuve, has brilliantly opened the 68th Festival de Cannes.
La Tête Haute by the French actress and director Emmanuelle Bercot is a film about tenderness. The tenderness of a judicial system for juvenile offenders, the tenderness of a children’s judge for her minors, the tenderness of a mother – behind on so many things – for her rogue son, of an educator for his juvenile and finally, of an offender for his son. An energetic, both rough and sensitive film, almost a documentary.
A juvenile offender’s chaotic course
La Tête Haute tells the chaotic journey – mainly between 16 and 17 years – of Malony, a minor delinquent (Rod Paradot) at first rejected then raised by a widowed mother (Sara Forestier) overtaken by events. His case is followed by a children’s judge (Catherine Deneuve) and an educator (Benoît Magimel), who, failure after failure, will strive to put him back on a more righteous path. Only the sweet prison of a young girl’s arms (Diane Rouxel) will save him from a sure future in the prison world… Winning respect of self and others – loving oneself and others – is a long learning curve…
Treasures of compassion
When the family can not provide education and respect for self and others, the society has to take up. Treasures of patience, understanding, compassion, served by exemplary dedication and fortitude will show that, despite the obstacles and violence, a positive result may be achieved. But it takes time and that’s what Emmanuelle Bercot’s film is telling us. Through the weaknesses of each, tenderness speaks for these lost youth who’ve not been given an easy life and were initially less fortunate than others. La Tête Haute is a woman’s film, full of compassion and forgiveness.
A family trinity
A young delinquent, his judge, who decides his fate, and an educator who guides. Almost a trinity, a mother-father-child family. Catherine Deneuve, as an authority of cinema, assumes her role without difficulty, facing a revelation – the first of Festival de Cannes – Rod Paradot, who, wearing a face piercing, a sly look, a stubborn forehead, is always keeping his head down and plays frightening scenes of violence. With verve and a nowadays popular accent, Rod Paradot, imposes a realistic interpretation of a boy ignoring any authority, full of explosive violence and hypersensitivity, whose rage and pain make him crazy in turn, driving him from open to closed educational center, and, in the end to prison.
A very long documentation work
Emmanuelle Bercot drew inspiration for her story from his uncle, an educator who had a clsoe relationship with a young delinquent kid in association with a close-to-retirement children’s judge. After a very long process of documentation on deliquent adolescence, Emmanuelle Bercot wrote La Tête Haute with Marcia Romano, with whom she had already written her first feature film Les Vacances. With Rod Paradot – a young unknown actor taken out from his studies in carpentry – and his youthful face, the director managed the challenge to follow the “tête-à-claques” character from the age of 13 to 17, who will eventually step forward to face his future standing tall.
Emmanuelle Bercot won the Jury Prize in 1997 with Les Vacances.
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