Directed by Jean Rouch • Drama • 2023 • 25 minutes
“When I’m old, at 25, I’ll get married and that will be the end.” —Véronique
In this short, Jean Rouch turns his anthropological eye to bourgeois teenage girls in Paris, in the summer of 1964. Caught in the in-between world of adolescence (they buy both Le Monde and children’s comics at a newsstand), Véronique and Marie-France seem to be trying on adult personalities to see how they fit. Véronique is the nihilist party girl, and Marie-France the intellectual who thinks it’s OK to have some hope for the future. Billed as an essay, THE FIFTEEN YEAR OLD WIDOWS may have been intended as a condemnation of a vacuous bourgeois existence—complete with horse farms and private swimming pools—but today it is more illuminating as a time capsule of the era’s attitudes towards young women. They read Baudelaire, who calls them “fools” and “sluts.” They crave the attention of insulting and condescending boys, while still recognizing them as “assholes.” And they are already becoming very much aware of the attentions of adult men.
The film is also notable for an appearance by French filmmaker Maurice Pialat, as a fashion photographer shooting Véronique, and trying to break through her cynical worldview.