United States: 1983
Original title: The big chill
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, Barbara Benedek
Actors: Tom Berenger, Kevin Kline, William Hurt
Publisher: BQHL Éditions
Genre: Dramatic comedy
Cinema release date: March 7, 1984
DVD / BR Release Date: February 24, 2021
Inseparable during their studies in the 1960s, Sam, Sarah, Michael, Karen and the others meet a dozen years later, for a weekend, reunited in memory of Alex, the best of the world. band, who just committed suicide. Of the eight, only seven remain, all deeply troubled by the untimely disappearance of their friend. As the hours go by, the gestures of the past take over. We listen to familiar music again, we are surprised at what we have become, while forgotten desires and old jealousies reappear …
Lawrence Kasdan was born January 14, 1949 in Miami Beach. He is one of those Americans who went to college in the late 60s, which seems to have upset and determined part of his life. With the possible exception of the 1950s, no decade in American history seems to have been so talked about, told, distorted and transformed. So a series of myths shroud the 1960s – that decade in which everyone seemed to have been to Woodstock, everyone did Vietnam, everyone smoked weed or took acid, everyone fucked with everyone with flowers in their hair, and everyone supported Martin Luther King.
“68, it was yesterday” sang Jean Meyrand, and in 1983, Lawrence Kasdan also seems to be wondering what became of the ideals of peace and unity brandished by the youth of the time. 15 years later, where have the idealists gone? Friends first allows Lawrence Kasdan to confront a group of merry sixty-eighters with their dreams of yesterday, with a tenderness not devoid of a ferocious irony.
They haven’t seen each other for years, and are reunited for the funeral of one of their own. 15 years earlier, they were all at the University of Michigan, and dreamed of becoming writers, activists, lawyers defending the civil rights of the oppressed or artists. Instead, they became Hollywood actors, venture capitalists, or drug dealers. But the death of their friend will make each of the characters face their own mortality, and make “decisions”, good or bad – however, after this weekend nothing will ever be the same again.
Like the soundtrack of the film, composed of pieces from the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Procol Harum, Temptations or Marvin Gaye, the decade of the 60’s haunts the characters of the film, like a vengeful spirit. . During the first third of Friends first, their conversations are a bit too formal, but eventually the masks will fall. And the more comfortable they feel with each other, the more it will become clear to the viewer that their respective lives have not turned out as they hoped. After graduating from college, they all made the right decisions – those “grown-up” decisions they had been taught to make. They got the right jobs, married the right people, and most of them created the families they were meant to have.
Friends first, it is a remarkable delicacy of writing, but also a literally hallucinating cast: the alchemy between the different performers is such that the spectator can only be really disturbed, even genuinely moved when, over the discussions between the actors, their feelings and emotions will begin to take shape before his eyes. This will make it difficult to hold back his emotion when the evidence emerges: evidence that all of these characters went wrong doing what society determined to be right for them.
All? Not quite. Thus, the character of Chloe, played by Meg Tilly, the youngest of the group, first presented as an idiot, will in reality subsequently take the ascendancy over many characters, and in particular that of Nick, played by William Hurt . She will become for him a kind of redeeming angel, as she had previously been for Alex, their missing friend. The scenes featuring them both are moreover all the more beautiful as they evoke a pure love and without any ulterior motives, contrary to the hidden motivations that Mike (Jeff Goldblum) could have in the first half of the Friends first.
It is through this relationship, but also in the triangle that is created around the characters of Harold / Sarah / Meg (Kevin Kline / Glenn Close / Mary Kay Place), that the viewer will best realize the purity of the ideals. sixty-eight members of this group of friends, united despite the years. They are attempting by their deeds in the present to rekindle the flame of a time when their lives were simple, where they knew people they could trust, and where they knew people who trusted them – as the character points out. Sam (Tom Berenger) when he talks about his life in Hollywood. Their dreams and ambitions were simple; they felt like they had all the time in the world to do those simple things in life – the things that matter – but time caught up with them.
So, Friends first is the midlife crisis movie? In a sense, of course, but through the portrayal of this bunch of friends, isn’t Lawrence Kasdan implying that all of America was having its midlife crisis in the early 1980s? The film cultivates in any case the nostalgia, the disillusions and the failed acts of this whole generation of baby boomers, and does so with sensitivity, without ever sinking into pathos, and by cultivating throughout its story an often irresistible humor. .
Even if it has fallen back into oblivion today (in part probably because of its French title evoking Georges Brassens), Friends first stands out, even today, as a masterpiece of humor and authenticity – a true marvel and certainly one of the greatest American films of the early 1980s. A film so successful that it would create a genre – that of the film of a “meeting of friends”, which would later become a French specialty. A comedy so brilliantly written, produced and so subtly interpreted that it would become a true “yardstick” in the genre, in particular thanks to the apparent ease with which Lawrence Kasdan managed, in less than two hours, to capture the pulse of its time.
We can only salute the initiative of BQHL Editions to offer us to (re) discover on Blu-ray Friends first. It’s all the more wonderful to be able to dive back into Lawrence Kasdan’s film as the restored master that is offered to us here really turns out to be beautiful: the image (1.85: 1 and 1080p) is indeed more perfect cleanliness. The sharpness is precise, the original silver texture has been preserved, the colors are fine and natural, and the contrasts are firm: all elements which testify to the remarkable quality of the restoration. We therefore applaud the editor with both hands. On the sound side, VF and VO are offered in mixes LPCM Audio 2.0 ; both transcribe the dialogues as well as the music with delicacy and clarity – there is absolutely nothing to complain about from a technical point of view.
As for supplements, BQHL Editions recycles the supplements of the DVD edition “Fifteenth anniversary” released in France in 1999. We will therefore first find the making of retrospective of the film by Laurent Bouzereau (56 minutes). Extremely complete, this documentary will therefore focus on the genesis, the casting, the production and the success of Friends first. It consists of numerous interviews with director Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer Barbara Benedek, editor Carol Littleton, executive producer Marcia Nasatir, as well as actors Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, William Hurt, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly and Jeff Goldblum, who will return to the roles, as well as those they would have liked to play on the screen.
We will then continue with a series of deleted scenes (10 minutes), which mostly focus at the start of the film, and provide an extended introduction to the characters during Alex’s funeral. All in all, these scenes turn out to be really excellent, and we would have liked to know the reasons why they were left out of the final cut; we think in particular of this very beautiful sequence during which each character drops a shovelful of earth in the grave, with the song “Tracks of my tears” of Smokey Robinson in the background. We will finally end with the traditional trailer.
But as often with BQHL Editions, we will find in the box a rich little 20 page booklet signed Marc Toullec, going around the production of the film and offering us a remarkable analysis.