Bilitis (1977): David Hamilton’s Coming-of-Age

Bilitis is a French erotic romantic drama film, directed by photographer David Hamilton with music score by Francis Lai.

It starred Patti D’Arbanville and Mona Kristensen as the title character Bilitis and Melissa, respectively.

The film was loosely based on a poem cycle by Pierre Louÿs entitled “The Songs of Bilitis,” set in ancient Greece, though the film is set in modern Europe. The poems were meant to be autobiographical poems by the title character.

A teenage schoolgirl spends the summer with a couple whose marriage is on the rocks, and develops a lesbian crush on the wife.

Meanwhile, she pursues a local teenage boy and tries to find a “suitable male lover” for the wife.

In the end, Bilitis, returns to school, realizing that she is not yet ready for adulthood.

The film was shot in soft focus style, common of David Hamilton’s photography and his other films.

In 1977, Hamilton released a photobook, Bilitis, which included the film’s most memorable images.

Patti D’Arbanville as Bilitis
Mona Kristensen as Melissa
Bernard Giraudeau as Lucas
Gilles Kohler as Pierre
Mathieu Carrière as Nikias
Irka Bochenko as Prudence
Jacqueline Fontaine as Head Mistress
Marie-Thérèse Caumont as Sub-Principal
Germaine Delbat as Principal
Madeleine Damien as Nanny
Camille Larivière as Susy
Catherine Leprince as Helen