Before Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, there was Diane Kurys’ Peppermint Soda, a French coming-of-age film in the tradition of The 400 Blows. Like many of the best coming-of-age films, it is largely autobiographical and therefore extremely personal, and yet there is also something extremely universal about the narrative. Despite being specific to the era that Kurys grew up in (the film takes place during the early 1960s) and made in the late ‘70s, there is something that will always be timeless about growing up.
A film filled with moments rather than a plot in the traditional sense, Peppermint Soda follows sisters Anne (Eléonore Klarwein) and Frédérique (Odile Michel) during their formulative teen years in 1963
The film takes a slice-of-life approach, immersing the audience in memories
tied to senses, such as the popular café drink that the film is aptly titled
after. We watch the unique experiences from Anne and Frédérique’s teen years,
as they navigate their home, school, and personal lives. Children of divorced
parents, they are often handed back and forth with the emotional coldness of a
transaction. Within the confines of their strict school, each tests the limits
of their independence with typical acts of rebellion. France
As Anne is awaiting the arrival of her first period and fighting with her mom about the latest fashion trend that all of the other girls in her class are up-to-date on, Frédérique falls in love for the first time and begins to think about politics for the first time. The film primarily follows Anne, mostly showing Frédérique’s experiences through the eyes of her admiring younger sister. Anne is desperate to grow up quickly, but it is the presence of Frédérique that allows us to see how far Anne has yet to go. And yet, despite having an older sister to guide her, Anne ends up making mistakes on her own, most often resulting in a combative relationship with her mother.
Perhaps it is the personal nature of the coming-of-age film that is the reason we have far more films dealing with the male experience than female. The sad reality is that there are far fewer female filmmakers, and fewer of these films as a result. Peppermint Soda is forty-years old, but it still feels like an important film because of this. The 40th Anniversary release features a new 2K restoration which makes the film feel as though it could easily have been made much more recently. American audiences may find the lack of story arc unsettling, though it follows in the tradition of many European coming-of-age films from the past.
The Blu-ray release for the 40th Anniversary comes with several extras, including separate interviews with director Kurys and star Klarwein. There is also a featurette with composer Yves Simon and a collection of photographs and production material shared by Kurys. The last of the special features are just two trailers, one for the restoration and another for the re-release. The main reason for the Blu-ray, however, is the spectacular restoration of the 1977 film.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Special Features: 7/10