Once upon a time there was a reform school for young delinquents located in Belle -Ile-En-Mer.The inmates had a really bad time and when young prisoners escaped and people were given rewards for "captures" ,the great French poet Jacques Prevert rose up and wanted his collaborator/director Marcel Carné to make a movie about it.It was never to be .First planned as "L'Ile Des Enfants Perdus" (island of the lost children) ,it died in 1947 when Marcel Carné called it a day in the middle of the filming of what was then called "La Fleur De L'Age" (see the "Carnet de Naufrage" IMDb entry).
Still with me? At the beginning of "Carrefour Des Enfants Perdus " ,the characters hint at "Belle Isle " or other places where children were imprisoned (for reasons that sometimes are hard to believe in 2008: one of the "delinquents" stole a sausage ).
At a time when the French cinema used to ignore social problems ,Leo Joannon ,long before François Truffaut and "les Quatre Cents Coups" (which was lauded far beyond its station),showed a desperate youth ,who did not believe in grown ups anymore in a world that had lost its way (it was 1944).
The movie was another Serge Reggiani's tour de force after his brilliant debut in Daquin's "Voyageur De La Toussaint".Even if Feuillade's Wunderkind René Dary is the star of the film -and he is quite efficient as a demobilized officer (and an ex-boarder of Belle Ile)-,Reggiani steals every scene he is in ,predating the rebels without a cause who would appear in the American cinema of the fifties.His not-so-good-looking face,his sunken features in spite of his young age ,his rebellious swagger made him the revelation of those dark years ,because he looked the part so much.
An officer ,two of his comrades and a social worker want to create the "Carrefour" , a place for lost children and teens ,-not a prison ("the doors are not locked" )-,to give them a chance not to fall by the wayside and spend most of their life in jail.Solidarity,responsibility and a hope for the future are the keywords .
Monsieur Marcel(played by the excellent Raymond Bussières) is some kind of Dickens' Fagin.
It works without being schmaltzy.The preachy Saint-Sulpician side which mars Joannon's final works so badly (the likes of "Le Défroqué " or " L'Homme Aux Clefs D'Or" ) is completely absent here.Joris's kid brother's fate is even anti-Hollywoodian to the core.
Once again,an oldie which is despised by connoisseurs of the French cinema.If you like Eric Rohmer's filthy rich youth busy contemplating their navel,this won't be your cup of tea.But if you are interested in the past of the French cinema ,you must have a look at this film.
Like this?try these......
"Wild Boys Of the road" (Wellman,1933) "Dead End" (Wyler,1937) "Chiens Perdus Sans Collier" (Delannoy,1955) "Au Royaume Des Cieux" (Duvivier,1949)
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