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Goodbye First Love ***

Paris, 1999: Camille is besotted by Sullivan. He besots back, but she cannot understand why he wants to go to South America with two pals, minus her, on a long adventure. Maybe from fear of Total Love? Camille has a teen crush on love, and she tells Sullivan, “I’ll always love you and never know why.”

That is the stinger truth of Goodbye First Love (sloppy American translation from Un amour de jeunesse). Director and writer Mia Hansen-Love is French, indeed Parisian, and made an excellent film on movie obsession, The Father of My Children. Maybe she is rounding off her old diary with this work, always intimate even as it wanders into Renoir woods and rivers, glimmering some touches of Jules et Jim (sage narration, the insect moment, a primordial female statue).

The intimacy is nestled in Lola Créton as Camille. She is one of the most absorbingly self-absorbed Frenchwomen since Jeanne Moreau in Jules et Jim and submits gladly to many moods, furtive talks, assignations, quickie sex (“Ah, le sex,” sighs Sullivan without regret, “toujours le sex”). But then Sullivan, played quite credibly by Sebastian Urzendowsky, departs for Latin America. Camille must suffer many vapors of tristesse but discovers architecture.

Her teacher, the Norwegian architect Lorenz (appealing Magne-Havard Brekke), rehabs a wing of her heart. Camille begins to be a discerning adult. The film is lovely, not just lovable, and never a sugar bun of goo-goo. Créton, with her downy body and sculptural chin and searching eyes, finds a purpose beyond fixation. If not Jules et Jim, neither is this a verbose marathon of tortured romance like that Left Bank epic of 1973, The Mother and the Whore.

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