The 1971 Movie Friends: A Poignantly Beautiful Coming of Age Film Never Forgotten By Teens From the 70's
The Absolute Best Option to Watch This Classic Film Today is With Amazon Instant Video
Even though I own the original, somewhat overpriced VHS version of this film, I'm thrilled to have found this streaming version on Amazon Instant Videos. It's by far the easiest way to watch it and it remains in my media library forever. I got the $9.99 SD quality option which, on my decent quality LCD TV looks beautiful. There is also an HD version for $17.99.
Only a select few were fortunate enough to have seen this film, but for those who did, most consider it the most memorable film they've ever seen. I was one of the lucky ones. The film was a romantic coming of age story about two troubled young teens (14 and 15 years of age). I was 14 at the time, and because of the controversy surrounding the nudity and sexuality, I wasn't allowed to see the film unless accompanied by an adult. Several of my friends worked at our local movie theater, thus they were exempt from the rule. Perhaps because of the controversy, I was desperate to see the movie.
If my memory is correct, I'd recently seen 'The Summer of 42', another iconic coming of age film, which I loved. Friends told me this film was similar, but better. I finally found someone to bring me...my across-the-street neighbor who I babysat for regularly, and who I looked up to...a lot. She was immensely kind to have brought me, and to this day, I'm eternally grateful that she did. Why, you might wonder? Because any time anyone asks me, 'What was your favorite movie of all time', I answer, without hesitancy, "it was 'Friends', from 1971". Most of the time, my answer is greeted with a blank, "huh"?
In my mind, it's impossible to explain why the film was so special without being able to afford someone the opportunity to also view it. For many years, that possibility was essentially nonexistent. Roughly 10 years ago I searched high and low for a copy of it to share with my own family. I ultimately found one VHS version in Europe that, in spite of being overpriced, I purchased for my almost teenage sons' and husband to watch. But more recently I discovered that others have also searched worldwide, and haven't had the same success.
When I was challenged to write a lens about my favorite movie, I hesitated, because, without providing readers with a way to view it, it seemed sort of pointless to me. Imagine my surprise and delight when I finally had a little time to research it again, probably 10 years after I purchased the overpriced VHS version, and found that it is actually available now...and it's on Amazon, which makes it almost universally accessible!
I immediately purchased it again, because I thought I should watch it before writing this review, and my confidence in finding or being able to play the VHS version wasn't high.
So the 'Buy it Now' link that I've chosen, is to give you above, is by far, the least expensive alternative to watch this most controversial film from 1971.
YouTube Tribute of Elton John's 'Friends' Song from 'Friends' Movie
My photo of the 2 Movies 'Friends' and 'Paul & Michelle' VHS tapes
The Good,the Bad, & Everything Else I Know About Friends
First | The Good
I, and thousands of other young teens loved this movie for so many reasons, that it's hard to distill them down to a few brief paragraphs, but I'll try. I was a relatively naïve 14 year old, living in the post 1960s counter culture revolution time period. A revolution which most definitely affected every aspect of this film and how it was received. To me, the story, the soundtrack, the cinematography and the message, were beautiful, poignant, and dreamily romantic. The soundtrack, performed by Elton John, (before he was well known) was both inspirational and haunting.
The setting was primarily the Camargue region of France, which is a vast and remote wetlands area on the Mediterranean Coast; it was as unfamiliar as it was breathtaking to me. And I believe this setting is one of the key reasons the film was so enchanting. In fact, recently as I researched this area again to keep my article current, I learned more about this really unique area of France. What I learned has convinced me that we need to travel to this region of France someday soon.
Photographs of the Camargue region in France
Finding amazing photos of Camargue isn't difficult. I think it's so beautiful it may be hard to take a bad photograph there. But finding a slideshow to link to that's easy to navigate for my readers proved to be a bit more challenging. So I'm including 2 links below. Both link to a French publication (I think...it's all in French!), that curates user submitted photographs for virtually every area of France. The first link is to the first page of thumbnail images for the area, with navigation at the bottom to go forward through all the pages of thumbnail photos.
I added this 2nd link because I initially had some difficulty getting the images to display in slideshow mode...probably due to the language barrier issue again.
Why Did This Simple Film Capture the Hearts of So Many 1973?
Why the film was so special is really very hard to describe.The plot wasn't particularly novel.
Brief synopsis of the plot:
Two young troubled teens, coming from very different backgrounds, meet serendipitously, fall in love, and build a utopian life for themselves against all odds.
I, like most of my peers of the time, grew up reading classic books like 'Little Women', 'The Swiss Family Robinson', 'Nancy Drew', 'Trixie Beldon, and even the 'Hardy Boys', to name a few. Some elements from the themes of these childhood favorites are captured in the film, and combined artistically to capture the hearts of young teens in that moment in time. The concept of creating a refuge in a quaint little cottage, with no parent's around to intrude, and needing to depend entirely upon your own abilities and creativity, were compelling. Whether or not this would be true today, I'm not sure.
I can tell you that when I watched the movie with my own young family in 2004, my husband and young teenaged sons just weren't impressed. The quality loss through transition to VHS and the romantic 'chick flick' nature of the film were probably partly to blame. But not entirely, because there did seem to be a lot of young male teens who seemed to feel as strongly as I did about 'Friends'. In fact, at the IMDB website (IMDB in the US at least, is the largest and most professional repository of information on films), there are 35 (oftentimes quite passionate) reviews of the 'Friends' film. Over half of them were written by men, which I found surprising!
Second | The Bad
The film, while seemingly loved by the vast majority of the general public (it was nominated for a Golden Globe award in 1972), was universally despised by critics. This conundrum and a synopsis of the critical reviews for both 'Friends' and a sequel released a few years later called 'Paul and Michelle', is explored in depth in an insightful article written in 2005, by Scott Murray:
Before I read the article above I ran across this scathing review by Roger Ebert, which was written in 1971 immediately following the release of 'Friends':
As an adult parent, looking back at this divide, I wonder if it may not have been due to the larger generational divide which was so significant in the 60's and early 70's. Film reviewers were generally 'adults', and by definition, unable to see what to us as teen's, was simply acceptance of truth and beauty.
Everything Else I Know
At the risk of boring my readers with too much information, I would like to share just a few more key details. These may possibly only be of real interest to my fellow devotees.
First, although much of the controversy was due to the portrayal of teens involved in sexual activity, as is typical in the movie industry, neither of the two teens starring in the film were actually as young as the characters they portrayed. Michelle, who was played by French actress Anicee Alinvina was actually 17 years old. This was her second film, but sadly the only one to receive international acclaim. She passed away at the young age of 53 from lung cancer. Sean Bury, who's character Paul was a year older than Michelle in the film, was actually a year younger than her in real life (so 16 at the time). He's from the UK, and his other noteworthy role was in the James Bond film 'A Spy Who Loved Me' in 1977. He appeared in several other movie and television productions but, like Anicee, this film was the one to bring him international acclaim. Sometime in in the late 1970s it appears he left acting completely.
Two Events Which Revived Interest in 'Friends' in the 1990’s
The film received renewed interest in 1992 when Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin released a CD of the soundtrack from the movie. This release was probably the most signifincat reason why the film continues to have a following today. Back when Elton John initially recorded the soundtrack, no on had ever heard of him. But for his huge fan base the release of this CD was of historic significance in understanding how he developed as an artist. And many of his followers consider this soundtrack to be some of his best work both artistically and stylistically.
The second event was the 1995 release of the VHS version of the film. For many, many fans of the original film, this event was a momentous occasion. More than 25 years had passed since first seeing the movie which so many people felt such a deep connection to.
Many comparisons have been made between this movie and the film 'The Blue Lagoon'
Another movie that's oftentimes compared to 'Friends' is 'The Blue Lagoon'. 'The Blue Lagoon', has been mildly affected by controversy similar to that of 'Friends'. But overall, it's more widely recognized by the public, despite the fact that it hasn't had the ardent following the 'Friends' film has.
There have been several releases of that movie. The first and second ones were British films from 1923 (silent) and 1949. The third and most popular in my mind was with Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins in 1980. In 1991, the 'Return to the Blue Lagoon' was released starring Milla Jovovich. Just last year 'The Blue Lagoon: The Awakening" premiered on the Lifetime Channel, with Denise Richards playing mom to the female lead and Chris Atkin's in a cameo appearance as a teacher.
This is the VHS Version I was So Thrilled to Find in 2004
Used VHS version of the original film ranges in price from $9.99 to $17.99 on Amazon. It can be streamed from Amazon for much less...$2.99 or $3.99. I watched it via Amazon streaming too and it's the way to go.
One more very EXCITING THING about this link is that if you read the reviews you'll note that the 1st one is written by Sean Bury, who's the male lead actor in the film. It's a sweet review! Sadly, the actress playing Michelle, Anicée Alvina, is no longer living.
A Shocking Price for the Not Very Good Sequel
Starting at $95.00 the VHS version of the sequel 1974 movie 'Paul and Michelle'. I can't fathom why anyone would spend this amount for a VHS tape of the sequel to Friends. The only remotely plausible explanation is the rarity of it, since neither film ever came out on CD in the US.
A Few More Thoughts
I purposefully haven't written too much about the actual plot of the 'Friends' movie, because it's a fairly simple one, and therefore has high 'spoiler' potential. Also, the relatively 'light' coverage beyond the plot itself is because, even now, in the wake of the small revival, there is really very little content available to share from the internet.
What Was 'Sexual Content' in 1971 is Standard Television Fare in 2014
There are a few points I feel should be added. The controversy surrounding the 'nudity and sex' aspect of the film, is by today's standards, really a non-issue. Nothing is shown that isn't comparable to what kid's today wouldn't see on MTV, You Tube, or even television for that matter. I didn't feel the subject matter to be inappropriate to my tween and teen sons, 10 years ago. The innocent and magical qualities that the film held for those of us who were teens in 1971, probably won't have a similar impact today. However, if I had a daughter, particularly one who was around 14 years of age, I would absolutely want to share this film with her
Scene from Friends Elton John's Song Michelle's Song
Many Consider the Friends Soundtrack by Eton John, to be One of his Finest Works
There are quite a few used copies of the original vinyl album floating around on both Amazon and eBay. An average price for the album is $2.50 to $5.00.