The acceptance of others is not an easy thing, all the more so since the “criteria” that underpin the social groups you want to adhere to are far from being based on sincerity and deep mutual understanding. Exploring with humour and cynicism this kind of struggle for acceptance in the social jungle of the modern entourage microcosms, ‘Bye Bye Virgins (Bye Bye les Puceaux)‘ is a dynamic and bittersweet film about the general tendency of individuals (teenagers, especially) to hide themselves behind a false image or an artificial social mask, totally different from their emotional structure and desires to define their real identity. Remaining in the parameters of minimalist realism authenticity, devoid of ornaments distracting the spectator’s attention from the sensitive nucleus of inter-human and, above all, interethnic contacts from the modest layers of French society, the director Pierre Boulanger’s vision manages to synthesize in his artistic project a credible panorama of human superficiality from which it derives a wide range of themes treating both the valences of love and friendship in a world based on competition and sexual “track record”, but also the distorted perception of the idea of intimacy and virginity caused by poor understanding of religious taboos. However, despite its delicate topics, this touching short film (fortunately) doesn’t privilege an extreme, tense and brutal approach to the spiritual degradation of younger generations, creating a perfect balance between the banality and the involuntary comic situations of everyday life, without avoiding some anxious moments that complement the psychological profiles of protagonists who have not lost all their humanity, sincerity and joy of living. Thus, although apparently Pierre Boulanger seems to outline a fiction focused on a social minority similar to ‘Dheepan’ (directed by Jacques Audiard), the discursive level of the young characters, as well as the contrasts in which they relate to sex differences or to their own social status while living in a competitive and machoistic world, create a link between this short film and ‘Entre les murs’ (directed by Laurent Cantet).
When, during a regular discussion, Inés finds out that one of the most popular girls in school had sex with a teacher, she begins to see her virginity as a disability that isolates her from the rest of her group’s members. Therefore, the young girl asks Abdel to meet her in private to “fix” the problem that she is obsessing with. However, Abdel is far from being an experienced boy, while he is also a victim of his “manly” friends group.
Using a minimal prop that aims to render the modesty of a multi-ethnic social environment, but also the emotional status of a critical age class struggling to be accepted by the rules of today’s society, Pierre Boulanger’s project is a homogenous and profound product about the daily madness of younger generations who are facing a terrible value crisis that affects the perception of their individuality. The slightly cynical tones by which the director manages to render an extremely current behavioural panorama, creating protagonists whose clumsiness reveals both their true inner beauty, untouched by the superficiality of the masks imposed by the entourages, and the absurdity of the competitive premises of a society dominated by “machomen”, for which sex is power, and virginity is weakness. Enjoying a pleasant and balanced visual grammar without complementary acoustic elements that could diminish the authenticity impact, ‘Bye Bye Virgins’ is a smart, contrasting, funny and inconvenient short film for both younger and older generations who may still have not complied (yet) with the social requirements imposed by the teenagers of the moment.
For the sincerity, cynicism and humor with which it manages to capture today’s existential crises of the youngsters, unmasking the falsity of social disguises and the absurdity of value hierarchies that obsess the souls of modern teenagers, ‘Bye Bye Virgins’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the February 2018 edition of TMFF.