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The Criterion Collection presents
Forbidden Games (Jeux interdits) (1952)

"I've got an idea. We'll make a nice little cemetery."
- Michel (Georges Poujouly)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 09, 2005

Stars: Brigitte Fossey, Georges Poujouly
Other Stars: AmŽdŽe, Laurence Badie, Madeleine BarbulŽeSuzanne Courtal, Lucien Hubert, Jacques Marin, Pierre MerovŽe, Violette Monnier, Denise PŽronne, Fernande Roy, Louis SaintŹve, AndrŽ Wasley
Director: RenŽ ClŽment

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature themes)
Run Time: 01h:26m:03s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 037429209622
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-B+ C+

DVD Review

Based on François Boyer's novel Les Jeux inconnus, René Clément's 1952 adaptation would be hailed as a masterpiece of French cinema, earning, among numerous other awards, an honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language film. It is a story of lost innocence brought on by the ravages of war as experienced through the eyes of children.

June 1940. The skies around Paris rain death indiscriminately, as the Luftwaffe mercilessly pound the French capital with a blitzkrieg. Thousands flee to the countryside, their convoys also targeted by aerial assault. Five-year-old Paulette is among the refugees, but when her parents and her dog are gunned down before her eyes, she finds herself wandering aimlessly through the rural landscape, cradling the corpse of her dead pet, unable to comprehend her new circumstances. By chance, she runs across Michel Dolle, a peasant boy whose family lives nearby.

The Dolles are simple farmers, already caring for an ailing son; however reluctantly, they take the girl in after Michel suggests the neighbors, with whom the Dolles are feuding, will get the credit for finding her. Despite being raised in higher class surroundings, Paulette is extremely naïve, and has no concept of death or religious ritual. Once introduced to the ceremonies of burial, Paulette promptly sets out to lay her dog to rest in the ruins of a nearby mill. Michel discovers her in the process, but his explanations make Paulette fearful that her dog will be lonely in his grave, so the two children set out to create their own cemetery full of animals to keep each other company.

Michel begins to collect an assortment of specimens to fill their new grave site. His only motivation is to make Paulette happy, but the trouble begins when she demands that the graves be adorned with crosses. Michel sets about acquiring them for her, but unlike Paulette, whose focus is simply finding companions for her dog, Michel knows what he is doing is wrong, going so far as to blame their neighbor for the disappearance of crosses from the family hearse. As events unfold, the children's activities become known to the adults, who insist that their sacrileges be corrected, but Paulette and Michel are unwilling to forfeit their sacred place.

Clément aptly conveys the world of these children: naïve Paulette dealing in her own way with her losses; Michel, her mentor and support, now her only friend in the world. Brigitte Fossey, who Clément almost passed over originally, commands the screen with a genuine and honest performance. Likewise, Poujouly plays his role with a natural presence. The supporting cast, although fairly stereotyped, help color the children's relationship.

Originally shot as a short subject, Clément was encouraged to expand it to feature-length by director Jaques Tati, with the cast brought back a year later to complete the expanded version. Although the subject matter would suggest a fairly morbid tale, the writing interjects a fair amount of low-key humor that does not undermine the central theme or tone of this tragic story.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, image quality is what should be expected from a Criterion release. Greyscale is well balanced with good midtones and shadow detail. Print defects are negligible. The picture is sharp and detailed, without excess enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Included are the original French and an English dub soundtrack. Mono audio is very good for the age of the film. Dialogue is fairly clean, distortion is minor, and hiss is subtle.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Essay
Extras Review: A handful of supplements accompany this release. Alternate opening and ending sequences originally designed to bookend the film are included, which change the tone substantially while also explaining the fairly abrupt finale. The theatrical trailer is also included.

Three interviews are provided. The first is a 1963 interview with director Clément (09m:26s) for French television's Cinépanerama in which he discusses many of the circumstances that led to the film's creation, and the hurdles faced in its production. The second features Brigitte Fossey in a 2001 interview (16m:11s) reminiscing about working on the set, and her realtionship with Clément. The final interview features Fossey and Clément in conversation during a 1967 interview for Magazine de la jeune fille.

The printed insert features credits and an essay by film scholar Peter Matthews. This 18-page booklet is printed on a grey matte stock, and features a number of illustrations depicting scenes from the film.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Forbidden Games presents the effects of war and loss from a child's perspective, presented in a transfer worthy of the Criterion banner. While not overwhelming in number, the supplements are appropriate, and round out the release nicely.


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