Studio: The Criterion Collection
Cast: Michel Terrazon, Marie-Louise Thierry, Rene Thierry, Marie Marc, Henri Puff, Raoul Billery
Director: Maurice Pialat
Release Date: October 5, 2010, 11:37 am
Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:23m:04s
ìHeís not like other children. You never know what heís thinking.î - Robby Joigny (Raoul Billery)
Movie Grade: B+
DVD Grade: A-
The late French director Maurice Pialat (Van Gogh) began his career back in 1968 with his first feature film, Líenfance Nue. Translated to English as Naked Childhood, this film tells the story of one boy who was bounced around from foster home to foster home throughout rural France. At the time, Pialat mostly dabbled in documentary filmmaking, and his first feature is fiction, but itís central themes donít exactly stray from his non- fiction roots. What his debut does do is focus on subject matter that is still at least slightly taboo throughout the world, especially when it deals with children similar to this protagonist, making Líenfance Nue just as effective and important now as it was over 40 years ago. The Criterion Collection emphasizes its importance by granting it another one of their signature excellent releases, but, unlike many of their recent efforts, the film is only offered in the standard DVD format. Fortunately, thinks look and sound just fine here, and thereís also a solid extras collection as well.
FranÁois Fournier (Michel Terrazon) is a young boy on the verge of making yet another transition from one foster family to another. During the social workerís latest meeting with his current family, the Joigny's, they informed this man that they are actually terrified of FranÁois, fearing the next harmful thing he will do to them. Upon hearing this, FranÁois, is, indeed, moved to the next family, the Thierryís, an elderly couple who seem to be much more nurturing and accepting of FranÁois, despite his shortcomings and destructive tendencies. He also becomes close with Mrs. Thierryís mother, Nana (Marie Marc), who steers FranÁois on a straight and narrow path, opening othersí eyes to the fact that thereís more to him than just a juvenile delinquent.
This is the epitome of a short, briskly-paced little film. However, Maurice Pialat has an awful lot to say in such a short period of time. He is clearly not happy with the foster care system in that they seem to be treating FranÁois as a thing rather than a human being. Sure, he doesnít exactly make things easy on himself by consistently doing the wrong thing and committing criminal acts, but it can be argued that he would be a better kid if heíd been treated with more care from the get-go by the numerous adults heís been shuffled back and forth between. Pialat wastes no time in showing us the Joignyís disgust with FranÁois, and their willingness to just throw him away like garbage is truly harrowing stuff. Still, this isnít a filmmaker with a ridiculous political agenda or anything even remotely close, as he shows us how the foster care system can work to benefit both children and adults, and he does this by introducing us to the Thierryís. In the 40+ years since the release of Líenfance Nue, itís remained true that this is a system that will never be totally fixed, but, as expressed in the film, if enough good people participated in these programs, itís a system that could get pretty close to being a damn good one, at least in some parts of the world.
The performances, are good ones, across the board, but this is clearly young Michel Terrazonís film to carry. While his acting career only consisted of appearances in four films, Líenfance Nue was his first, and, given his amazing work in it, youíd think heíd been in numerous before it. His ability to flawlessly carry the film, in what is a nearly dialogue-free performance, is simply uncanny, and single-handedly takes Pialatís film to another level. The rest of the performers are quite good as well, led by Marie Marc as Nana. She does a superb job in a role that, in a lesser film, would have been relegated to a token, old, useless grandmother role. Here, sheís an integral part of the story, and, more importantly, Pialatís vision. Thereís little surprise that Criterion has delivered yet another excellent DVD for a relatively obscure film. A new video transfer and clean audio mix are only the tip of the iceberg, as theyíve also included another great booklet, as well as excellent documentary and interview pieces in the extras department.
Chuck Aliaga October 5, 2010, 11:37 am