The singular French director Maurice Pialat (Loulou, À nos amours) puts his distinct stamp on the lost-youth film with this devastating portrait of a damaged foster child. We see François (Michel Terrazon), on the cusp of his teens, shuttled from one home to another, his behavior growing increasingly erratic, his bonds with his surrogate parents perennially fraught.
In this, his feature debut, Pialat treats this potentially sentimental scenario with astonishing sobriety and stark realism. With its full-throttle mixture of emotionality and clear-eyed skepticism, L'enfance nue (Naked Childhood) was advance notice of one of the most masterful careers in French cinema, and remains one of Pialat's finest works.
SPECIAL EDITION DVD FEATURES
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- L'amour existe, director Maurice Pialat's 1960 short film about life on the outskirts of Paris
- Choses vues, autour de "L'enfance nue," a fifty-minute documentary shot just after the film's release
- Excerpts from a 1973 French television interview with Pialat
- New visual essay by critic Kent Jones on the film and Pialat's cinematic style
- Video interview with Pialat collaborators Arlette Langmann and Patrick Grandperret
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Phillip Lopate
Like a dark reflection of The 400 Blows, L'Enfance Nue (or Naked Childhood), Maurice Pialat's first feature film, follows the struggles of François (Michel Terrazon), a boy in the foster-care system who lashes out against even those who show him kindness. There's no plot to speak of--François is kicked out of one foster home and ends up with an elderly couple who try to cope with his erratic nature--but every scene is so rich with human conflict that the movie is riveting. The film is almost aggressively plain--the elegance and musical flow of Truffaut's childhood movie is utterly absent. Pialat (A Nous Amours, Loulou) wants to be utterly transparent, to create immediate contact with François's bittersweet existence, and the result is vivid and affecting. As ever with a Criterion release, the extras are superb: an interview with Pialat on French television, in which he discusses frankly and clinically the movie's commercial failure; a documentary that's half "making of," half investigation of France's foster-care system (featuring some heartbreaking interviews with foster children, including the boy that François was based on); interviews with Pialat's cowriter and assistant director; and a thoughtful critical essay. But the crown jewel is a short film by Pialat from 1960, L'Amour Existe, a stunningly beautiful and genre-defying meditation on postwar suburban life in Paris, seething with what can only be described as a scathing melancholy. --Bret Fetzer