By John W. Stiles
Does what comes come from what came? Oliver Martineau and Jacques Ducastel appear to answer this question in the affirmative in their nearly three-hour epic tale of two generations of French gentle folk whose lives span the 40 years from the Paris riots of 1968 to the election of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Born in 68 (Nés en 68) begins with the Sorbonne riots of 1968 and follows the trajectory of French politics from the repressive post-war DeGaulle to the Socialist Mitterand to present-day Sarkozy. Of more immediate interest is the arc of socio-sexual evolution from the free-love communal life of the ’60s to the early dark days of HIV to ACT UP and Le Pacs (the French civil union or Pacte civil de solidarité).
Born in 68 is told through the lives of Sorbonne revolutionaries Catherine, Yves, and Herve, their commune neighbor Maryse, and their children Ludmilla, Boris, and Christophe. Catherine is the fulcrum of the film, an innocent and heroic figure and the mother of Ludmilla and Boris. Catherine has sex with everyone, but the children are Yves’. Herve is too busy taking the revolution seriously and departs the commune for the underground. Maryse and Catherine become lifelong friends, and their sons Christophe and Boris become lovers.
Born in 68 is beautiful for the French countryside, the French language (English subtitles), and French sensibilities toward sex. The sex is more about love than sex, and tenderness abounds. The film is not without lessons, though, and the lessons take the form of unspoken questions. Did the hippies’ free-love philosophy lay the groundwork for the sexual excesses of the ’70s? Did the socialism of Mitterand lead to the hyper-capitalism of Sarkozy? Is today’s multiculturalism laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s xenophobia? Heady questions for a heady 40 years. Heady film.