22 June 2000 | The Masticator
Compelling and sweet, with an exquisite central performance
I had to sit up until 4 in the morning to watch this film but it was worth it. The kind of political film that most Western filmmakers don't dare to make, "Rouge Baiser" tells the story of a young Polish girl in 1950s Paris, caught between the obligations of family and the lure of powerful politics in the shape of the Communist Party. Nadia is first attracted by the charms of a photographer who pulls her from a street mêlée, but his influence is soon supplanted by that of the Party, leading to painful emotional clashes between Nadia and her mother.
It's a minor work, in truth, but it has stayed with me due mainly to the heartfelt work put in by Charlotte Valandrey in the lead role. Only 16 at the time, her compelling portrayal of Nadia is vulnerable and strong, beautiful and awkward - all you can ask from an actress acting out the complex passage into adulthood at such a sensitive time. Aside from her brilliant performance, Lambert Wilson is excellent as the enigmatic Stéphane, and Véra Belmont demonstrates superior skill in both the direction and the writing.
"Rouge Baiser" is a largely undiscovered gem, a film of rare craft and passion, with a feel for the dangers of its period and a genuine understanding of human urges both personal and political. It would be well worth seeking out.