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Enfance Nue (Version française)
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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
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
With that said, I will add that this movie was based on a real boy, although somewhat loosely. This is explained in the first "Supplement" on the DVD entitled "Autour de 'L'enfance Nue'". Even if you do not normally watch the DVD extras I would suggest you watch "Autour de 'L'enfance Nue'" after watching this movie, it puts things into prospective. Without this extra I would have given this DVD one less star than I did.
Also to help explain my personal prospective of the movie: I have two adopted relatives, I have known other adopted children, and have been close friends with two families who took in foster children. I have known a boy very much like Francois. He had been hurt emotionally in the past, he lied frequently (especially about his past), he acted out frequently and in such a way that it seemed he either did not want to be loved, or he was constantly testing the love of those around him. Francois in this movie is very much the same, the only thing that really stands out as different about Francois and the boy I knew is how easily Francois is manipulated by other children. The two worst things he does in the movie was at the urging of other children.
This movie also shows some problems with the French foster care system in the late sixties. From the supplements on the DVD it would appear that the problems did exist in the foster care system at that time. Hopefully it has improved in the decades since.
Also included in the Criterion DVD is a insightful 50 minute documentary on foster children in France that was made just after the film's release.
This is an honest and beautiful film. It's best to not judge Francois, but actually see him. Far more difficult to do, though far more rewarding.