The French Kissers

The French Kissers

International theatrical poster
Directed by Riad Sattouf
Produced by Anne-Dominique Toussaint
Written by Riad Sattouf
Marc Syrigas
Starring Vincent Lacoste
Anthony Sonigo
Alice Trémolières
Noémie Lvovsky
Music by Flairs
Cinematography Dominique Colin
Edited by Virginie Bruant
Les Films des Tournelles
Distributed by Pathé
Release dates
  • 10 June 2009 (2009-06-10)
Running time
90 minutes
Country France
Language French
Budget $3,5 million
Box office $14,751,272[1]

The French Kissers is a 2009 French teen film. Its original French title is Les Beaux Gosses, which means "the handsome boys".[2] It was written and directed by Riad Sattouf, marking his film debut. The film follows Hervé (Vincent Lacoste), an average teenage boy who has little luck with finding a girlfriend until the beautiful Aurore (Alice Trémolières) takes a liking to him.

Sattouf, a graphic novel writer, was invited to write a script based on an idea from producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint, and he completed the screenplay with Marc Syrigas. Sattouf cast non-professional actors as the film's teenage characters, but he chose to use experienced actors such as Noémie Lvovsky, Irène Jacob, Emmanuelle Devos and Valeria Golino as the adult characters. Filming took place over eight weeks in Gagny and Rennes.

The film was released in France on 10 June 2009, and a soundtrack composed by Flairs was released on 8 June 2009. The film was well received by critics, who particularly praised the humour, the acting and the cinematography.

It won the 2010 César Award for Best First Feature Film and Lacoste also received a nomination for the César Award for Most Promising Actor. It also won the Prix Jacques Prévert du Scénario for Best Adaptation in 2010.


Hervé (Vincent Lacoste) is a teenage boy in junior high school with ordinary looks and middling grades, living with his single mother in a housing estate in Rennes. He and his best friend Camel (Anthony Sonigo) often fantastize about their female classmates and their mothers, but have less luck with girls in reality.

Hervé unsuccessfully pursues romances with various girls at his school, including with Laura (Julie Scheibling), who accepts his offer of a date as a joke. After Aurore (Alice Trémolières), a beautiful and popular girl at school, asks him on a date, they embark on an awkward relationship. Although Hervé and Camel are frequent masturbators, while both alone and together, Hervé and Aurore are slow to engage in sexual activity beyond kissing. Aurore eventually breaks up with Hervé when his friends try to grope her in a game of Dungeons & Dragons and she discovers that he lied to them about having sex with her.

The film concludes with the characters in high school; Hervé is dating Sabrina, Camel is dating Jenifer, Aurore is dating Wulfran, and Hervé's mother is married to Anas's father.


French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré makes a cameo appearance as the professor of Physics.


"In films, you see beautiful, handsome teenagers having intense love relationships at the age of 14. Or you have social movies with teenagers raped by their parents. [My friends and I] had an eventless life nobody was interested in us but we still had our frustrations. I wanted to show that."

 —Riad Sattouf, writer/director[3]

Graphic novel writer Riad Sattouf had studied animation and had dreams of filmmaking,[4] but he thought that it would be too exhausting to write and re-write a script, find producers, find funding and censor his ideas to please others.[2] Sattouf had rejected several film offers before because they lacked creative freedom,[5] but he agreed when he was contacted by Anne-Dominique Toussaint, a film producer and a fan of Sattouf's graphic novels who wanted to make a teen film.[2] Sattouf wrote the first draft of the script and then asked screenwriter Marc Syrigas to help him to re-write it.[2] Rather than make a film about "the codes of today's teens, the way they talk, [or] their arsenal of electronic devices", Sattouf wanted to focus on "the intensity of their emotions".[2] He wanted to depict "the things that happen during teenage-hood that we don't show so often".[5]

Casting all of the characters in The French Kissers took place over three months.[2] Sattouf cast the teenage characters through casting agent Stéphane Batut whose team he described as "experts in casting teenagers" and chose from taped auditions of 500 Parisian high school students.[2] He did not want to work with professional actors who he feared would be egotistical and may have thought that he was not legitimate as a first-time director.[3] He wanted to cast unknown actors due to his "phobia of stars", but after considering that he might not make another film, he asked Emmanuelle Devos, Irene Jacob and Valeria Golino to appear in the film and they all accepted.[2] Sattouf sought actors who were "ugly ducklings with unusual features, and their own way of talking, of walking" and who could express emotions without "acting".[2] He struggled to find teenage actors who were like their characters and were willing to be filmed in an unflattering way. He said that Vincent Lacoste and Anthony Sonigo were less concerned about their appearances when he showed them a picture of himself as a "very ugly" teenager.[5] Three days before the beginning of principal photography, Lacoste broke his knee at a music concert, and so his resulting limp was added to the character.[2] According to Sattouf, Lacoste and Sonigo were completely at ease with filming scenes of masturbation, and all of the actors treated their French kisses "like a hug".[2]

Filming of The French Kissers lasted for eight weeks.[6] Some street scenes and interiors of Hervé's flat were filmed in Rennes, Brittany where the film is set but the budget was too small for substantial filming in Brittany, so Sattouf tried to find a college in the Paris suburbs that resembled his own in Rennes.[6] Most of the film's interior scenes were shot in Gagny in Paris's eastern suburbs at the Madame-de-Sévigné de Gagny and Eiffel de Gagny colleges.[7] Sattouf used close-ups and unusual compositions when filming the teenagers to "feel their animal side". There was little camera movement to show "there is some heaviness in them; the world is turning around them, they are their own prisoners".[8] He wanted the camera to be held "so close that you could feel their oily skin, every imperfection, and smell their [body odour]".[2]


Les beaux gosses: Bande originale du film
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 8 June 2009 (2009-06-08)
Length 37:03
Label Naïve Records

The film's original music was written by French electropop musician Lionel Flairs, who performs under the moniker Flairs. It was his first composition for film. When he was approached by Sattouf to compose the soundtrack, Flairs was reluctant because he preferred total freedom when writing music, but after he agreed he enjoyed collaborating with Sattouf. The soundtrack is less like Flairs's usual "happy pop" because Sattouf wanted a sad feel to reflect the sadness in the characters' lives.[5]


Critical reviews of The French Kissers were positive. The Gazette's Brendan Kelly, who gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, wrote that "Sattouf captures that strange mix of bravado and shyness that is teenage guy-dom, and the result is both frequently hilarious and, finally, quite touching." He thought that Lacoste was "perfect" as Hervé and that the casting of non-professional actors made the film more authentic.[9] Justin Show of Filmink magazine described the film as a "fresh and brutally sincere comedy that strays away from typical teen flicks". In particular, he praised the cinematography, Sattouf's dialogue and Lvovsky's performance.[10] Mike Goodridge wrote for Screen International that the film shows "a nice blend of humour and intelligence that places it somewhere between American Pie and Wild Reeds". He enjoyed the well-known actors' brief appearances and thought that the film's "acute observations and ribald humour" would appeal to adult viewers.[11] The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge summarised the film as "a hilarious spin through contemporary French adolescence". Berge found the teenagers' depiction "farcical but realistic" and felt that, like John Hughes's films, a particularly funny aspect was the mockery of authority figures.[12] In a review for Variety magazine, Jordan Mintzer opined that the film comprised "plenty of heart-wrenching gags right in the smacker". Mintzer found some sequences "nauseating" but others "freshly and creatively slapstick", and praised the raw cinematography.[13] David Stratton of At the Movies awarded the film 3.5 stars out of 5, describing it as "a likeable insight into the problems of children who want to grow up very quickly". He called the non-professional teenage cast "terrific", and praised Lvovsky's performance as Hervé's mother.[14] Herald Sun critic Leigh Paatsch found the film "blatantly funny" but also "surprisingly moving". He called Sattouf "a knockout talent behind the camera" and praised the "great humour and honesty" of the story.[15]


  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "The French Kissers" (Press release). Palace Films. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  3. 1 2 Maddox, Garry (21 December 2009). "Ultimate revenge of ugliest in class". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  4. Monier, Guillaume (June 2009). "Sale gosse?" (in French). Evene. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Gordon, Bob. "The French Kisers: The Young And The Restless". X-Press Magazine. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  6. 1 2 Steinlen, Claire (18 June 2009). "Ciné. Riad Sattouf, beau gosse rennais". Le Télégramme (in French). Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  7. Corcier, Marjorie (16 June 2009). "C'est le collège des " Beaux Gosses "". Le Parisien (in French). Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  8. Carmelo, Bruno (15 May 2009). "Interview: Riad Sattouf". NISIMAZINE. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  9. Kelly, Brendan (30 October 2009). "Review: Les beaux gosses (The French Kissers)". The Gazette. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  10. Show, Justin (22 December 2009). "The French Kissers (Film)". Filmink. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  11. Goodridge, Mike (8 June 2009). "The French Kissers (Les Beaux Gosses)". Screen International. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  12. Byrge, Duane (18 May 2009). "Les beaux gosses -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  13. Mintzer, Jordan (18 May 2009). "The French Kissers". Variety. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  14. Stratton, David. "The French Kissers (Les Beaux Gosses)". At the Movies. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  15. Paatsch, Leigh (24 December 2009). "Leigh Paatsch Film Review - The French Kissers". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 23 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
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