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The title alone of this 1998 film by Manuel Pradal instantly conjures memories of Jacques Demy's 1963 Baie des Anges ("Bay of Angels"), a free-spirited ode to the loveliness of youth set against the sunny Riviera. Pradal's film also deals with young people in the same locale, but the tone is entirely different. Marie (Vahina Giocante), a 14-year-old girl, divides her time between hanging out with kids her own age--many of them homeless and all of them morally and emotionally adrift--and flirting with American sailors. In time she becomes friends with a rootless boy, Orso (Frederic Malgras), with whom she steals a boat and has a brief, blissful paradise on an island, chasing around and playing jokes until the story takes an unhappy turn. Pradal is as determinedly unromantic about this most romantic of settings as Demy was celebratory. It's not that Marie Baie des Anges is oblivious to its surroundings but rather that Pradal approaches them rather statically, presenting colorful scenes in fixed tableaux and giving us few of the usual bearings about what matters most within the story. The film can be a little maddening, a little redundant, yet the Lord of the Flies-like culture of beached children is too haunting to ignore. --Tom Keogh
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