I've been writing for about 10 years, primarily about internet safety and mobile technology like iPads, at vsatips my main site.
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.
The Absolute Best Option to Watch This Classic Film Today is With Amazon Instant Video
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
A Shocking Price for the Not Very Good Sequel
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
Elton John's Rare Masters CD Contains the Soundtrack from the Movie $14.95
Raylene Hallman on July 31, 2019:
I saw this movie in 1970 with a boy that I was not particularly instested in. So it wasn't the date that was memorable but the movie itself somehow touched me. And, I feel I'm love work Elton John's music that day.I still have that cassette tape. Over the years Ito have tried to find the movie without any success. At 65 I have to wonder if I would reduce those teenage years of I researched it today.
vsajewel (author) on February 12, 2018:
Stephenborisoff has provided us all with some incredible information about acquiring copies of the film as well as the most incredible information any fan would cherish...the personal email response he received from Sean Bury...who plays the young male lead role in the film.
What makes his story so heartfelt is what he's written about his costar Anicee Alvina, who passed away 11 years ago (as of 2018.)
One other incredible part of Sean's email discusses how he and his brother, also a classical trained actor and former Roomate of Jeremy Irons) came to appear in the Jame's Bond film "The Spy who loved me"!"
vsajewel (author) on February 12, 2018:
I don't seem to have any control over the order that these comments appear, but if you loved Friends as much as I did you'll want to read the incredible comments below.
One which is toward the bottom of the page is in Portuguese which I've translated here:
Beautiful movie, it was part of my adolescence, watched when I was 13 years old, and I just saw it again now, at 54 years old. It marked time, very beautiful the film, even reviewing now I love this movie.
Stephenborisoff on January 15, 2017:
I gave you Sean Bury's email address and an older one which undoubtedly doesn't work anymore... If interested in contacting the actor, if I were you I would not be shy. Just get your questions and comment to him together in an email and send them to him. If he hasn't changed his email address, he will respond very promptly as he did for me. Its a neat feeling to communicate with one of the actual members of the cast of Friends and Paul and Michelle. You can ask something special and get a special response. Again, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . By the way, if you do not own a great copy of Friends in mp4 format HD wide screen or and perfect DVD burned from the digital file... or the best copy of Paul and Michelle around burned from VHS (though it is not wide screen since no wide screen version has yet surfaced), just write me at email@example.com and give me an mail them to you and I certainly will comply!
Stephenborisoff on January 09, 2017:
Sean's email address if still the same is firstname.lastname@example.org . If this email address bounces, let me know because it might be email@example.com but I doubt it. Good Luck. Don't be shy to email Sean Bury. (Paul). He is so nice. Write him about anything. I bet he will answer you in his personal style...
Stephenborisoff on January 09, 2017:
Hi Stephen and Judith,
Please forgive me, but my Friend Anicee died nearly 10 years ago this coming November 6th... her wonderful husband rang me that same evening with a voice so full of deep sadness ... It was all I could do just to thank him and express my deepest empathy for him and all the children .... and even now I still find it painful to discuss, some days I can and some when I just just cannot..... this is a cannot day.
The pain never goes... as I am sure you know the feeling when you lose someone with whom you realise suddenly that you were very close to when you were at an important moment of growing up.
But you learn to live with it... then you realise that you haven't thought about her for the last few hours..... then a few days... then a whole week passes.
As I mentioned, sometimes in life things are best left the way they were.... I am a fervent believer it is part of the greater plan of things......
That last meeting we had nearly a year before in 2005 had been quite revealing to both of us.... and very moving in an emotional way. We were both amazed and also sorry to have lost contact for so long.... but that did not diminish our friendship or our respect for each other as very young professional actors all those years before.
I cannot hide it.... but neither of us was very fond of the other off screen... just mutual professional regard for the other.... no one believed us of course. We were always playing pranks on each other.... till it got out of hand. But that's for the book... that I hope may get published. ... But I am not holding my breath. As my dear Indian friend has taught me.... She says "If it is written in the sands of time..... then it will happen...... But the winds of time will one day erode even the faintest of memories of it's passing. But the heavens shall know it forever"..
Please don't be offended... But I left the acting life I once knew behind me so many years ago now.... This is a different chapter in my life..... like all of us.... we all have many chapters and at the very least one good story in us all. I am certainly blessed with so many wonderful memories... and that is where I would like to keep them. I learnt that to walk away from that wonderful magical life... was probably the best thing for me at that time. I still have no regrets ... in fact I still believe that I am the luckiest guy I know ! These days I work late shifts.... and I blend quietly into the background..... but the same message of love is still passed out through me.. maybe to a lot fewer people in one go these days... :) a far cry from that other Sean. But that's the only difference.
I shall write to Paramount Japan to see if they have any plans to clean up P&M VHS copy and to release it on DVD... But I doubt it.... I have very little influence over such matters.... But you never know till you try.
Keep the ideas flowing...... and may you both continue to love and give support to each other.... it's all way too short.
Love, light and magic.
Stephenborisoff on January 09, 2017:
Dear Stephen and Judith,
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write to me. . . and thank you for making such an effort in compiling kind thoughts of people who were touched by "Friends".
I was such a lucky lad way back then, in my someone else ago days. You see, I have been more and more drawn to that period in my life just recently and in particular . . to the filming of "Friends", From people of a similar age to myself . . all sharing an awakening that the film seemed to touch at that moment in their lives. . . indeed it was brought to my attention by a "Friend" of my own that it would seem to hold a nostalgic moment for so many.
Having been in the "business" since the tender age of 8, I realised from an early age that a production, be it Theatre, Radio or Film, is created very much by a team of people. Upon which it's success or failure depends, as much on timing, as anything else, "Friends" was of it's time, And it reminds those of us who care to remember that life was different then, simpler.. . I am not sure, but I am sure of the very fond memories during it's making and being part of all those who made "friends".
The film had such good luck to have Elton John and Bernie Taupin writing a few songs literally weeks prior to their meteoric rise to fame. . . with the wonderful craftsman Paul Buckmaster and his haunting orchestration to the theme.
As you say. . your question is dealing with the fictional lives of the characters Paul and Michelle. I had played with the idea of making the final sequence years later, but each time I started the creative process over 10 years ago now, I could not help thinking that some things are best left incomplete. . . my reasoning is that life as much as we would like it to be, is not very neat and tidy. I did not feel the risk was worth offending the memories of those who remembered Friends.
Paul and Michelle . . the follow on was made partly due to the fact that Friends had had such a huge commercial success in Asia and the far east notably Japan, it made sense to make a follow up. I was in discussions with Lewis to make another film straight after P&M . . "Seven nights in Japan". . . But I had already decided that my career in acting was not where my heart lay. So when he phoned me a few years later to ask me if I wanted a small role in a bond movie just as a bit of fun. . . I replied yes, but on one condition, my brother who had been classically trained as an actor at the "Bristol Old Vic" had not shared the same fortune of roles that I had. . and certainly no where near the good fortunes of the chap he shared his digs with there. . . young chap called Jeremy Irons. . .wonder whatever happened to him ?. Would he (Lewis Gilbert) be willing to give my brother a job as well. . of course he said. . . So you see, at the tender age of 8 I made a film called "Beware of the dog" and my brother was in that with me, as well as "The Spy who loved me". . . . Some 13 years. . the span of my career as an actor!
kind regards. Sean Bury.
Stephenborisoff on January 09, 2017:
Firstly, may I thank you so much for taking the time to write to express how those films made you feel... It was all such a long time ago now. But it has lingered in the hearts of so many and I am always humbled to receive mails from those for whom it had a special meaning.
As you say Anicee was a very beautiful kind lady. I have just had my 60th birthday a few days ago.... and am still receiving very touching letters from all over the world. I keep the fond memories of the making of the film in my heart and so appreciate the touching response from those who, like you, have taken the trouble to write to me. I recently made contact with a chap in Thailand at scorpion DVDs ( @ Amazon) Nathan has been kind enough to sell me a few copies of "Friends" that was released by Paramount Japan (so I am led to believe). It might be worth your while looking him up and seeing if he has a suitable copy for your part of the world. I know the copies work here in the UK as my step grand daughters have recently finally got to see it.
P and M was never released on DVD as far as I am aware. I have no contact with the industry I used to know since the small part I played in the Bond film "The Spy who loved me"... and I only did that because Lewis Gilbert was kind enough to ring me and ask if I wanted a small part in it..... so more out of curiousity than serious professional commitment I did it... with my elder brother in it too!
I have absolutely no IT qualifications I'm afraid so an electronic signature would not be possible. I would be interested to know if you manage to get a copy that suits your machine there as I do get asked more and more.
I think the film captured a moment in time of 2 young kids growing up in real life..... and Lewis's very careful handling of not only the characters but also of Anicee and myself during the process of rehearsals and subsequent shooting. The wonderfully good fortune of Elton's music and the musical arrangement of Paul Buckmaster..... like so many things in life..... you can have the best ingredients in a cooking pot.... but you are never sure of the outcome. The result was I still think just a very sweet little film that caught a moment in time that resonated with so many.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart and wish you both a wonderful continuation of life.... and may joy and happines follow both you and Judith all your days.
Kind regards and very humbled
Vsajewel, I do have Sean's email address and the emails... on January 09, 2017:
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org . If you write me, I can send you copies to the 3 emails that Sean send me and even his email address if you want to write him yourself. He is so cordial. Write me if you want copies or the address... don't be shy.
vsajewel (author) on January 08, 2017:
Wow! Again, I'm so sorry for not finding your comments much sooner. I'm just reading them in order and didn't realize that there were more from you.
How touching and cool Sean's communications with you are. I'm actually on a vacation with my family right now and we have very spotty internet...so I hope my replies are making it through. I will write more when we are back home and I have a decent internet connection...but I didn't want to delay in letting you know that your comments did (finally) reach me...and none were removed it seems. I'm just not sure why I'm only being notified of them all now. Each is showing for me as having been written 4 months ago...but clearly that isn't correct. I'm thrilled you took the time to share your amazing information with us and want to thank you for your persisitance. I will write more in a few weeks when back home.
vsajewel (author) on January 08, 2017:
So sorry for my late reply. I don't know why but Hubpages never showed me comments on this Hub until today (Jan 2017!) Your comments are fascinating and your warnings are so true and helpful. It's been a long time since I've searched for Friends and you are so right to warn people. It's scary how many scam sites are out there and despite your warnings, while checking this out I almost inadvertently got myself into trouble too.I'd love to hear more about what Sean emailed you! Thanks so much for sharing your information with us!
Stephenborisoff on September 03, 2016:
I submitted a similar long comment an hour ago which was very much more specific about sites concerning the 2 films and where to get them plus my email address for questions concerning things I have discovered as of late (2016) about Friends and Paul and Michelle. Please publish one or the other and let me know if I can give out my email address. I assumed that the first comment disappear because the powers that be pulled it as inappropriate according to the rules stated at the bottom of your page!
Stephenborisoff on September 03, 2016:
It has been two years since the one and only comment posted on this page. I am one of the most avid fans of Friends (1971) and its sequel Paul and Michelle (1974). I am 66 years old now. All my life, I have kept Anicee Alvina in my heart because she was so adorable. My wife and I marched down the aisles at our wedding to "Michelle's Song". This year (2016), fully restored high definition wide screen streaming video and downloads became available of Friends (1971) and I own them all, including a one and only commercial DVD manufactured in Thailand which is supposed to be "all-region" but will not play on American region 1 DVD players. I also have bought a copy of the VHS tape of Paul and Michelle (1974), the sequel to first motion picture and every one of the available non-commercial DVDs burned from Paul and Michelle VHS transfers attempts from various semi-professional sites I googled. I have discarded all but three because they had either too much contrast or were poor copies. The Paul and Michelle (1974) DVDs are not quite as perfect as the VHS but good enough. They are all 4:3 aspect ratio just like the original VHS that they were taken from, not wide screen, not high definition. No commercial DVD yet exists and definitely, no HD version of the sequel. There are many bate and switch movie sites which claim to be places where one can download P and M or watch streamed 1080p HD of it, but alas, one pays for trial membership, then has to call and cancel that membership when one finds out that site doesn't really have it. I communicated with Sean Bury (Paul) in Britain a few years ago when he was 62 and he wrote me some touching emails about how he and Anicee didn't actually get along well with each other during the making of Friends, but rather were constantly playing tricks on each other. He told me that he accidentally ran into her again close to the end of her life (She died of Lung Cancer in 2006) and how much he regretted not keeping up the friendship. When I asked him particularly intimate questions about Anicee, he told me two things of interest... 1) that he had toyed with the idea of making a third sequel for years, but decided that some things should be left as they are because he felt that life is just not that "neat and tidy," and 2) that on some days he can talk about Anicee and on some days he just cannot... and unfortunitely, the day he wrote me the email, he stated that it was a "cannot talk about" day... I shared in my email to Sean an idea that a third sequel could be made where he could play Paul as a 62 year old who accidentally might run into Michelle who would have to be played by an actress who resembled the now deceased Anicee and who would be, of course, 61 and a alf-f-f! instead of only 14 and a alf-f-f. Sean did not mention my idea in any of his responses to me. I assume, considering his feelings for Anicee, that the idea was just too much for him. Sean told me that Anicee was a very nice lady. Sean Bury is an extraordinary humanitarian and mentions in each of three emails to me that he is "humbled" by my writing to him. What a pair of actors they were and are! No wonder their two films have stuck with me all these years!!!
Stephenborisoff on September 02, 2016:
My wife and I used Michelle's Song from Friends (1971) when we marched down the aisle at our wedding. That was 43 years ago! If you google Friends (1971) - IMDb as well as Paul and Michelle (1974) -IMDb you can find many quotes that I tirelessly transcribed from both movies. I also wrote a complete summary for both the first movie and the sequel there. When Amazon put out Friends (1971) in HD (it is also sold by Apple to play in iTunes), someone deleted my summary of Friends (1971), probably because like my summary of Paul and Michelle (1974) on IMDb that still exists, it was a spoiler. They still sell the VHS of Paul and Michelle (1974) on Amazon and several movie-seller sites sell non-commercial burned DVD copies of Paul and Michelle in 4:3 SD format of varying quality transferred from VHS. Generally the quality of these available Paul and Michelle DVDs are a little below par compared to the VHS you can buy at a steep price but good enough, and no HD wide screen version yet exists of the sequel as of 2016. Beware of many bate and switch links claiming to allow you to watch or download Paul and Michelle (1974). For some reason many streaming video sites say that you can watch the sequel but after you pay for trial membership, you discover that they really don't even possess the film at all. They are quick to cancel your membership when you call and complain. As far Friends (1971) goes, be careful not to buy advertised commercial DVDs as they are all region 2 and even the all-region version advertised on Amazon will NOT play on DVD players for the USA! There is a Spanish version of Paul and Michelle (totally in English) on YouTube but its quality is lousy. Also, I have the email address of Sean Bury and I possess 3 or 4 interesting emails from him written to me during the last several years. In "Find a Grave", there are endless "flowers" and comments for Anicee Alvina who died of Lung Cancer around 2006. Questions: my email is email@example.com
vsajewel (author) on March 14, 2014:
@Charito1962: Your the first person that actually remembers hearing of the film! Thanks so much for letting me know...I was beginning to wonder why no one else remembered it!
Charito Maranan-Montecillo from Manila, Philippines on March 14, 2014:
I was a pre-teen in the '70s when this film hit Manila's cinemas. I never watched it but to this day, I enjoy listening to Elton John's "Michelle's Song" and "Friends".