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Les Enfants Terrible (The Criterion Collection) (Bilingual)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Nicole Stéphane, Edouard Dermithe, Renée Cosima, Jacques Bernard, Melvyn Martin
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Writers: Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean Cocteau
  • Producers: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: July 24 2007
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PKG6OY
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #36,547 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Les Enfants Terribles (The Criterion Collection)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By pat on May 3 2015
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
La poésie de Jean Cocteau est universelle et c'est ce qui fait de lui un être à part et ce qui à donné dans ce film une vision sociale qui dépasse les barrière du temps, Ce film est d'autant actuel qu'il l'était autrefois.Ce film traduit le génie qu'était ce poète sans âge.
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Format: DVD
Under Jean-Pierre Melville's direction, Jean Cocteau offers to us his adaptation of "Les Enfants Terribles" (The Terrible Children), a popular French novel he wrote and published in the 1920s. The story of two teenagers, Paul and Elizabeth, and the mind games they play as brother and sister since the death of their father and, eventually, of their mother. Games that ironically reflect their parents' troubled marriage, but also allows them to escape a cruel reality. Though their playground dives into a path of no return as certain actions and people appear in the story and truths are revealed. A plotline I wouldn't want to reveal more, but which I consider a classic of French cinema. Not an incest story as some people have said, but instead, as Cocteau explained during a documentary available on the Criterion release of Orpheus, a story between two family members who shut themselves from the world and get together into their family cocoon. Their universe.

Of this movie collaboration between two talented filmmakers came an important question. Are we dealing with a Jean Cocteau movie or a Jean-Pierre Melville work? In a "credits" sense, this is a Jean-Pierre Melville film. But as many film viewers know of Cocteau's influence on the script, the dialogues, the set designs, a cinematography, and an editing work more frenetic and much closer to Hitchcock, many have felt this movie as Cocteau's work. It is even a debate that comes up in the Special features of this DVD as Experts discuss during an exhibition of Cocteau in Paris, while friends and collaborators of Cocteau try to answer that question. Among them, one of the producer even said that Melville almost renounced that movie. But personally, I think this movie is a collaborative partnership.
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Amazon.com: 10 reviews
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
A Depraved Seduction July 25 2007
By Doug Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
During the first few minutes I thought Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles seemed like an odd choice of novels to adapt for a director known for his low view of human nature but that is only because I was not all that familiar with Les Enfants Terribles. The title should have given me a clue but I realized as I watched that Cocteau also is very interested in exploring man's and woman's less seemly side. Furthermore, Melville's gritty noir sensibility is every bit as much on display here in this coming-of-age story as it is in the noir masterpieces that came later. In this adaptation of Cocteau's novel Melville ruminates about the insular world of a brother and sister whose precocious and despotic imaginations are destabilized only by uncertain desires. The two teen siblings are Paul, an ultra-sensitive student who is infatuated with another male student named Dargolos, and Lise, his sister, who has been forced to stay at home to care for their ailing mother. There is an obvious and deeply disturbing symbiotic bond between these two and the unwholesomeness of the bond is immediately apparent. Though they are young there is nothing youthful or innocent about either of them; in fact, much of the time, they seem to act like little blonde fascist versions of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton--as with Taylor and Burton for these two cruelty and seduction are indistinguishable. Just how depravedly selfish these two are, or might be (again, the extent of their depravity is never made explicit) might disgust some viewers. (If the incest topic makes you queasy you should probably stay away from this.) But even viewers who can handle the topic might be frustrated that Melville does not give us the proper amount of background information on these two to allow us any real depth of insight into the evolution of these two tormented psyches. To be fair, though, Cocteau was writing before Freudian psychoanalysis and the idea that we needed fully fleshed out case histories to understand individual or symbiotically joined psyches had become part of the common culture. As it is Cocteau and Melville only give us bits and pieces of Paul and Lise's psyches and all we can do is make assumptions about what went wrong. Whether the cause of their rapid slide down the slippery slope of narcissism was lack of a tutor to socialize them or just a result of their having received an overabundance of creativity and beauty at birth remains a mystery to the end. And we can never say whether Paul's infatuation with Dargolos and then the later infatuation with Agathe was an attempt to replicate his bond with his sister or to escape it. All we really know at films end is that the strange bond that exists between Paul and Lise prevents either of them from bonding with anyone outside their own mutually imagined realm. They do invite two guests to live with them (or, I should say, the two are seduced by Paul and Lise's depraved behavior) but they are welcome only so long as they play by Paul and Lise's very exclusive rules.

There is plenty here even for the casual Freudian and those who think deeply about such films will no doubt come up with their own plausible solutions to this brother-sister mystery but, it seems to me, one can only guess at Cocteau's and Melville's intentions--and I think this lack of explicitness is intentional. I can't help presuming that Cocteau is making a point about creativity and dissent and how asocial (anti-bourgeoisie) desires lead to psychological depravity but that judgement relies upon a value system that I do not think Cocteau and Melville necessarily share with the rest of society. More likley its just their own creative prerogotive to acknowledge that such states of desire exist outside the normally sanctioned channels of being.

In any event, this is a very creative film that will elicit a variety of responses from Freudians and anti-Freudians alike (I'll be curious to read future posts here).

Note: If this kind of thing is your kind of thing you might also like Volker Schlondorff's adaptation of Musil's Young Torless as well as the fictions of Edgar Allen Poe, Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, & Paul Bowles.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Sibling play Aug. 16 2007
By Helena - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Earlier this year, in the spring, Ms. Nicole Stephane main female character of this movie has passed away. What better way to pay tribute to the acress, but to revisit this old classic movie based on Jean Coctoeau's book that was directed by famous French director Melville. Although I never read the book, I wanted to check out the movie with risque theme of incest.

I found movie fascinating, although some of the acting I found to be overdramatic and certain actors miscast. But the idea of the movie and deep tragedy of the situation between brother and sister, kept me at the edge of my seat until the end.

If you watch this movie, you must see the documentary commentary about making of the movie. Drama did not start and end with the story presented in this classic, but it is the drama behind the camera that was unnerving all along. Save time to watch this brief commentary because it will give you some great insight about the complex relationship between actors, director and writer during the creative process.

I could not stop thinking about another movie with the similar theme : "The Cement Garden" made from Ian McEwan's book. While the idea of the incest is common for both of these works of art, the characters in "The Cemenet Garden" are much better casted and developed. In any case, watching this movie will be time well spent.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not great, and I don't know why... Aug. 25 2007
By Chris Swanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Les Enfants Terrible" is a collaboration between one of France's greatest authors, Jean Cocteau, and one of its greatest directors, Jean-Pierre Mellville. It should be, and according to many, is, a superb, excellent film. But to me there was something... missing. I don't know what.

The plot of the movie centers around a brother and sister who have an unusually close relationship. It's not made clear in the movie if it's an incestual relationship, but the overtones are certainly there (indeed, when they make references to the "games" they play, one can easily substitute the word "sex", and remove all doubt).

Both children, apparently around sixteen, spend a great deal of time isolated in the room they share, and woe betide anyone who invades their sanctum. All is reasonably well until the sister marries a wealthy man, who soon dies, giving her, her brother and their friends a large house to live in.

From a technical standpoint a lot to admire in this film. There's a great deal of poetry in the visuals, some wonderful acting, and some powerful dialogue. But for me, as I said, something was missing. I'm not sure what it was. I SHOULD have liked this movie more than I did. Perhaps on subsequent viewings, I will like it more.

For now, though, it gets three stars. But at least it's a SOLID three stars, and I certainly don't feel as though I wasted my money by buying it.
A night of snow, an infernal bedroom, two orphans and their mind games... and a tragedy... Of the Terrible Children July 19 2015
By Omnes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Under Jean-Pierre Melville's direction, Jean Cocteau offers to us his adaptation of "Les Enfants Terribles" (The Terrible Children), a popular French novel he wrote and published in the 1920s. The story of two teenagers, Paul and Elizabeth, and the mind games they play as brother and sister since the death of their father and, eventually, of their mother. Games that ironically reflect their parents' troubled marriage, but also allows them to escape a cruel reality. Though their playground dives into a path of no return as certain actions and people appear in the story and truths are revealed. A plotline I wouldn't want to reveal more, but which I consider a classic of French cinema. Not an incest story as some people have said, but instead, as Cocteau explained during a documentary available on the Criterion release of Orpheus, a story between two family members who shut themselves from the world and get together into their family cocoon. Their universe.

Of this movie collaboration between two talented filmmakers came an important question. Are we dealing with a Jean Cocteau movie or a Jean-Pierre Melville work? In a "credits" sense, this is a Jean-Pierre Melville film. But as many film viewers know of Cocteau's influence on the script, the dialogues, the set designs, a cinematography, and an editing work more frenetic and much closer to Hitchcock, many have felt this movie as Cocteau's work. It is even a debate that comes up in the Special features of this DVD as Experts discuss during an exhibition of Cocteau in Paris, while friends and collaborators of Cocteau try to answer that question. Among them, one of the producer even said that Melville almost renounced that movie. But personally, I think this movie is a collaborative partnership. That is of Melville as producer and director of a movie where Cocteau's dialogues, cinematography, and artistic input enriched and influenced Melville's camera. Therefore I think we are dealing with a Melville-Cocteau co-production.

Regarding the movie's storytelling, the work is as rich as Cocteau's work, but instead of setting it in the 1920s, Cocteau put his story into the 1950s as he felt only Christian Berard, who had passed away, could have reproduced the 1920s. A decision that had disappointed Melville, but which I think makes his story a timeless fable that could be transposed in any time period. As for Melville's musical choices of using Bach and Vivaldi's concertos, I felt the story became epic and reminded me of the eighteenth century. A time period Nicole Stephane found Cocteau very close to in his storytelling and his philosophy. And with Cocteau's narration, I couldn't help getting touched by this wonderful gesture as phrases from the novel became alive under the poet's voice. Transforming the story into a grand masterpiece that we had the chance of uncovering.

Of the actors, everyone gave a wonderful job. Including Edouard Dhermitte, who was Jean Cocteau's lover. Now I know that in the DVD's leaflet and in Jean Marais's autobiography, Melville and Marais considered Dhermitte an actor with weaknesses. Without the proper experience to pull the roles Cocteau had cast him in. Regarding Dhermitte's abilities in this movie, I do not quite agree. For if as an actor he is no Lawrence Olivier, he has nevertheless a perfect chemistry with his co-stars that are Nicole Stéphane, Jacques Bernard and Renée Cosima. By the way, their chemistry together was so perfect that, as Jacques Bernard said during an interview for Objectif Cinéma, all four of them became great friends after the film's shooting. Which is exceptional in cinema. And between Stephane and Dhermitte, I don't think any other actors could have the passion and energy those two had as brother and sister. Indeed, whenever I read the novel, I can't help visualizing Nicole and Edouard as the sole and unique figures of Paul and Elizabeth. And with all four of them together, this central quartet becomes a four leaved clover that makes their scenes perfect.

In its special features, I mentioned the Making of describing the movie's production and the Cocteau-Melville debate, but we also have an interview with Nicole Stephane for TV5, where she reminisces on the movie's production, her defense of Cocteau, and how she defended him after Melville had insulted him. It is a lovely feature that reminds to us how as a poet, Cocteau had touched and moved all those who had worked with him.

In the end, this movie is a great pinnacle in both Melville's and Cocteau's cinema.
Great piece of movie-making, but a difficult film Aug. 23 2012
By Dr. Laurence Raw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Don't expect the old stable conventions of plot and coherent characterization in this film. Based on Cocteau's 1929 novel, Jean-Pierre Melville's film captures the surrealist spirit in which audiences are encouraged to reflect on different levels of reality, as well as consider their own role in the mise-en-scene. The cinematography is brilliant: some of the shot-compositions are truly memorable in their use of light and shade. Maybe you need to view the film twice, if not thrice, to appreciate its qualities.


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