24 years after its release, Olivier Assayas Cold Water (1994, L’eau Froide) finally gets it’s (Blu-Ray)Home Entertainment release courtesy of The Criterion Collection. A coming of age story of urban teen angst in 1970’s Paris, France.
The film is regarded by some as Assayas ‘debut’ film when ironically it was actually his fifth if anything it was his breakthrough film. The film has been a long time coming largely thanks to the rights to the songs used, all playing a pivotal part of the film’s setting.
Cold Water we find ourselves back in the 1970’s Paris, a story of teenage love, Gilles (Cyprien Fouquet) and Christine (Virginie Ledoyen). Our lovebirds are from different backgrounds, both equally rebelling against their families, authorities, society, in general, threatens to tear them apart. Gilles is from a middle-class family who spends time stealing records from the local store whilst underperforming at School. Christine is from a working-class background, she lives in a broken home. If you believe her stories her father is ‘abusive’ towards her and tries to get her committed to an asylum. Her parents constantly fighting for her custody, Gilles parents are divorced too but his father is very supportive of his son. He is also frustrated with his performance and discipline at school.
Cold Water is am an examination of tumultuous youth, love, and rebellion. They always say every decade is different for the youth generation, which would be correct to some extent. Every decade has brought new experiences, but those experiences still bring out the rebellious nature in youths.
This is a study of the 1970’s youth culture backed by a fantastic soundtrack that would resonate with the youth in the decade. The score plays throughout the film (in shops, radio, bedrooms), more so in the end party scene. The youngsters have a carefree attitude and dance around the bonfire in a ritualistic manner. Dancing away to Janis Joplin, Alice Cooper, Leonard Cohen, and Roxy Music (the song Virginia Plain used a lot). Every generation had its sound, a sound that was connected to youth rebellion.
Cold Water is regarded as a snapshot of Assayas’ own days as a youth, one of disillusionment. An era in our lives we don’t speak until spoken to. We watch our leading starcrossed lovers act out their insecurities only to rebel even more towards their adult peers. What works is that we see this not from the adults perspective but from Gilles and Christine’s point of view.
Using mostly first time/non actors gives the film a visceral edge. The frustration feels real, the energy is raw and Virginie Ledoyen, Cyprien Fouquet are superb. Their love doesn’t feel false, you feel their pain and frustration. Thanks to Denis Lenoir‘s cinematography things feel restless, disjointed which reflects to ‘youth in revolt’. The 16mm gritty camera is reminiscent to the Dogme 95 (Danish movement which Lars von Trier was part of), a window into the intoxicating heart and mind of adolescents, and off course a rising star in French filmmaking.
Paul Devine | ★★★★
Drama | France, 1994 | 15 | Blu-Ray | Subtitles | 10th September 2018 (UK) | The Criterion Collection | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir Olivier Ayassas | Viriginie Leyoden, Cyprien Fouquet, László Szabó, Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Picture & Sound | ★★★★
The film is presented in 4K Restoration which was overseen by Ayassas himself. Whilst on screen it may not look like it, it keeps its grainy look. This is not a negative as the film was deliberately filmed on Super 16mm which reflects the story. The Aspect ratio is 1.66:1 in 1080p and even with the grainy look this is still a clear crisp solid delivery with scratches, dirt marks cleaned up. Denis Lenoir went for a shaky cam direction which may give raw, organic feel, which can mean some detail is lost.
The film is provided in a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master track in the original French language alongside a rich 24-Bit sound surround. The soundtrack is one of the stars of the film, depicting the film’s decade. The tracks are well presented as is the dialogue and other sound effects. The film also comes with a new update English translation.
Extras | ★★★★
The extras on this release are very lightweight for a Criterion Collection Release. However, as a starting point into Olivier Assayas filmography, they deliver a lot of depth and interest. The two interviews with Assayas and DoP Denis Lenoir will give you a lot of background into Cold Water. As will the Television excerpt from a 1994 French TV programme which the director and lead actors help give you a better understanding of the film.