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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Mother,you had me and I always had you but...

Author: dbdumonteil
28 September 2002

The parents have rarely been more selfish and nastier than in this Cocteau play.Only Tennessee Williams's Mrs Venable in "suddenly last summer" can compete with Yvonne.Over-possessive to the power of 100,under her bourgeois mask,she is absolutely terrifying.And what about the father?He has an affair with Madeleine,who -coincidence- is in love with his son Michel.And when there's somebody who must sacrifice won't be him.

The play was ideal for cinema because the atmosphere is stifling,a constant huis clos where the characters are often filmed in close-ups:the parents 'faces exudes meanness,fear of getting old and ugly.Their apartment is deservedly called "la roulotte"(the trailer)as it seems as tiny as their occupants' heart.The only generous person is aunt Leo (Gabrielle Dorziat,dazzling as ever) who tries to save the young couple,because she knows what an unfulfilled life means;when she was young,she used to love her brother-in-law,Yvonne's now husband and she sacrified herself for her ungrateful sister.

Michel (Jean Marais ,a bit too old for the part but his gusto and his dynamism easily makes up for it) and Madeleine (Josette Day,who had already teamed up with Marais in classic "la belle et la bête") are unfortunate victims of the boy's old folks .

It 's untrue to say,as a precedent user mentions,that the nouvelle vague was rebelling against Jean Cocteau.He was never a target for them as was for instance,Jean Delannoy(who teamed up with Cocteau several times :"l'éternel retour"(1943) and "la princesse de Clèves" (1961).)

Cocteau is a monstre sacré.His works will outlive most of Godard's farces.I do hope they will.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A fun tragi-comic farce from one of the cinema's best poets.

Author: Paul Ratner (
2 August 2000

Jean Cocteau was one of the few artists capable of bridging the gap between reality and the wondrous magic of existence. His "La Belle et la Bete" (1946), and even more so "Orphee" (1949), were masterful and inventive suspensions of reality for the sake of something infinitely more real..

"Les Parents Terribles" was not constructed in the same vein and is a rather simple story of a young man and his terrible parents. The endearing but doofus-like young man is played by the well-sculpted Jean Marais. Somehow, at 35, he looks younger in this film than he did in the 1943 "L' Éternel retour," which was also based on a Cocteau screenplay. The plot revolves around the young man's naive love for a girl who's been having an affair with his dad. Yvonne de Bray (somehow reminding me of Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard") gives an excellent incestual performance as Marais's clingy mother. The story's melodrama chugs along smoothly and only falters for me during one of the last scenes, where it spills too far over the top. Ultimately, the movie is a very enjoyable farce, even if nowhere near Cocteau's true wizardry.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Folks Who Live In The Hell

Author: writers_reign
15 November 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is Cocteau taking a leaf out of Marcel Pagnol's book by filming his own successful play using mostly the same cast. Determined not to 'open up' the play Cocteau confines himself to interiors that could be accomplished in a theatre via scene changes but whilst he succeeds in creating the claustrophobia of a small theatre he undermines his intention by featuring the kind of extreme close up (the scene, for example, where Michel exults about his love to Yvonne and we focus on her eyes as she absorbs this) that theatregoers would be unable to replicate even from a front row seat and employing opera glasses. This is primarily a vehicle for actors and in the main the performances match the writing - with the exception of Jean Marais who leaves a trail of sawdust in his wake - with Gabrielle Dorziat as tante Leo being the class act. As dysfunctional families go this one could give Gene O'Neill a run for his money. Momma Yvonne (Yvonne de Bray) has the hots for her son Michel (Marais) who has found (so he believes) true love in the shape of Madeleine (Josette Day) but the thing is Madeleine has been shacked up with Michel's father Georges (Marcel Andre) and, oh, I nearly forget, Aunt Leo (Dorziat) was in love with Georges herself but stood aside in favour of Yvonne; the parents prevail upon her to help split the young lovers and while she initially agrees she has a change of heart, something Yvonne could have used when she tops herself under the strain of it all. It's not exactly Les Bronzes or Le Pere Noel est un ordure but it is fairly classy and it's not, thank God, Nouvelle Vague.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Stifling, overwhelming.

Author: manxman-1 from bahamas
11 October 2002

Claustrophobic melodrama in which the son wishes to marry the father's mistress and everyone tiptoes around trying not to spill the beans. Very well acted but stifling in its lack of exteriors and guaranteed to drive you into the arms of the nearest bartender.

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2 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

What the French New Wave filmmakers were rebelling against

Author: psteier from New York
29 August 2000

The film's plot seems ready to turn it into a farce, but the humor is weak and the pace is leisurely. Well acted and decorated, but not about people I'm interested in.

For hard core Jean Cocteau or French film fans only.

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