The Best Way To Walk, or La meilleure façon de marcher as its known in its original French version, is a 1976 film directed by François Truffaut protege Claude Miller (his directorial debut). The film is set at a holiday or vacation camp (aka summer camp) for boys in the French countryside and but for the last scene of the film takes place in the summer of 1960.
The camp, which according to the English translation of the canvas sign early in the film, is simply called Summer Camp, centers primarily on athletics – football and swimming – and theater. Like a lot of American summer camp movies, The Best Way To Walk focuses primarily on the lives of the counselors and save for a cute kid with frizzy hair and glasses most of the children in the film serve as props. In fact, many of the familiar camp counselor archetypes are there – the funny guy with a goofy hat who likes to tell crude jokes, the creepy looking guy with a bowl haircut and a cache of pornographic photographs and the two main characters in the film – the effeminate theater teacher and the arrogant recreation leader.
Not surprisingly, the theater teacher, Phillippe, and the jock, Marc, butt heads early on with their differences in philosophy and approach with the kids. Making matters worse, Marc walks in on Phillippe, the camp director’s son, dressed as a woman in his room late at night and as if he didn’t have reason to pick on Phillippe already he begins mercilessly teasing and bullying his co-worker. Even still, as the tension mounts so too does the sexual confusion both men experience. Visits from Phillippe’s girlfriend only drives this tension to its sadly peculiar climax at a last night of camp costume party.
Quirky, like a lot of French exports, the film is exquisitely shot. So much in fact that it took me five minutes into the film the first time watching it to realize I hadn’t turned the English subtitles on. The acting is also very well executed and the summer camp elements quite enjoyable – a subplot about a suggestion box, the public dismissal of a disgraced counselor and a battle scene turned riot on the camp stage welcome comic relief to the serious main plot.
The Best Way To Walk is an obscure oddball when included among the collection of American summer camp films shot in subsequent decades, but for fans of foreign cinema and serious filmmaking, it’s a must watch. The film, after all, won the César Award (think French Oscars) for Best Cinematography, and was nominated for Best Film, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Writing and Best Sound.