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Les enfants terribles
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Reviews & Ratings for
Les Enfants Terribles More at IMDbPro »Les enfants terribles (original title)

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Technically stunning but lacking a key element

Author: beanofdoom from Chicago, IL
24 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film, technically and aesthetically stunning, is certainly successful in establishing a mood that is pervasive throughout the entire work. I imagine that Melville must have been pleased with the finished product but I do wonder how Cocteau felt about it.

My curiosity stems from the fact that the images of the written work were always successfully employed by the imagination to increasingly sinister effect. The siblings were basically two parts of the same being and their histrionics as well as their torture of each other felt as natural and unremarkable as a self-deprecatory comment made to oneself about some minor mistake. This histrionic nonchalance was missing from the movie. Watching the characters harass and chase each other around was a two dimensional representation of a dynamic that would, i think, have been far more successfully established by relying less upon running and screaming. Their games had an emotionally taxing impact upon those in their presence and this wasn't established too well either. Ultimately, I guess that most of these observations can be attributed to actor/observer effect, the difference between being a part of a story, as in a well written book, and watching a scene. I just found the characters to be somewhat laughable at times in the film and I imagine that had I've not read the book, the ending may have seemed excessive and self-indulgent.

I genuinely think that the creative realization of this work paid too much attention to the aesthetics/mood of place and not nearly enough to aesthetics/mood of dynamic. What results is a well-acted, aesthetically pleasing, character study of a few individuals that never really feel real. Melville is often guilty of this but for his subject matter, which is typically more plot driven, it works. The hustlers and lowlifes of the pulp era noir flicks aren't supposed to be accessible. Those films unfold like clockwork scenes performed by little tin wind-up thugs-- and its perfect, don't get me wrong. But the power of the 'two sides of the same coin', co-dependent siblings fable is the pervasive sense of dread that one feels as the dynamic starts to unravel; this is absent from this film. Nonetheless, I give this film seven stars for being a provocative work by two artists for whom I have a great deal of respect.

'Dead Ringers' is an example of the same fable that I thought was remarkably well realized. Of course it's nowhere near as good a movie from a technical standpoint.

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Fascinating, but for the wrong reasons

Author: justincward from Glasgow, Scotland
3 June 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You know what you're getting with Cocteau - 1920's transgender shenanigans with a hint of incest thrown in - and with Melville you get an almost literally 'classic' director; it's all about capturing the performance as though on stage, the camera as transparent medium, not as unreliable narrator.

Whether 'LET' makes sense to you or not, once the initial slightly slow sequence where there's an unconvincing snowball fight is over, it's a fascinating exercise in suggestive scripting, spooky acting and sumptuous set-dressing. Enjoy it as a period piece; if you glean a few bits of trivia from IMDb you'll enjoy it all the more.

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12 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Unconditional lover of Cocteau universe

Author: Bob Taylor ( from Canada
22 January 2004

This is a great film; I've seen it a couple of times on TV recently. Nicole Stephane is astonishing, her face a mask of passion, deviousness, grief. She had the glam-butch look that only Sharon Stone today has mastered. Edouard Dermithe wasn't much of an actor--Cocteau "rescued" him from the coal-mines of the north of France--but he's as spoiled as the story needs. Renee Cosima is fabulous as Dargelos/Agathe; I love her fish-mouth and hoarse voice, and those plump arms. A MUST.

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A Melville-Cocteau Mix

Author: gavin6942 from United States
13 July 2016

Elisabeth is very protective of her teenage brother Paul, who is injured in a snowball fight at school and has to rest in bed most of the time. The siblings are inseparable, living in the same room, fighting, playing secret games, and rarely leaving the house; though Paul's friend Gerard often stays with them.

To me, Melville is most associated with crime thrillers, sort of a master of the post-noir or neo-noir genre. This is certainly not that, and really has nothing criminal or noir about it, though it does have the black and white cinematography. (Not "noir photography", but still.) What is this film trying to say? Who are the "terrible children"? What is jealousy, and what is attraction? Darned if I know.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Cocteau Vin (Domestic)

Author: writers_reign
23 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a film that possibly several will admire but almost none will actually like. Somewhat bizarrely there is not a scintilla of chemistry between any two people in the cast let alone the four principals. It's very possible that the two 'poets' who collaborated on the production, Jean Cocteau, author of the original novel (published in 1929) and a man fully capable of writing and directing a film entirely alone, and Jean- Pierre Melville who went on to enjoy - after this, his second feature film - a very distinguished career laced liberally with Masterpieces (L'Armee des ombres, Le Samurai, Le Cercle Rouge - were so disparate that it is as if Picasso were to collaborate with Breughel on a painting. There's a wonderful piece of pure chuzpah on the DVD when Gilbert Adair, who blatantly ripped off Les Enfants Terribles in 'The Dreamers' provides a narration.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Strange and at times unnerving masterpiece, French style.

Author: R. Ignacio Litardo ( from Capital, Buenos Aires, Argentina
2 April 2009

It took time to build, but when things got really rolling, I felt things could not happen otherwise. The settings and actresses are truly fine. The musical score, simple and obsessive, is perfect for this almost naive plot of youth angst "avant la lettre". The final monologue of Elizabeth about "how we have to make our lives ugly, unlivable" is worth many bad French Literature we "ought to read".

While I cannot say it has any meaning, the "form" of this movie is so good one just forgets. I agree with Amazon's Tom Keogh that it may be "a harbinger of pop narcissism", I thought exactly the same. Some images are beautiful, like Liz moving in the garden with barren trees and a cloudy sky, prodding elegantly in a house that doesn't belong to her.

Doug Anderson on Amazon wrote a good summary and a great line: "the unwholesomeness of the bond is immediately apparent" "little blonde fascist versions of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton-". The thread he and another reviewer have is interesting. I pinch from there my end line: "In film the "how" is everything".

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

My two favorite French filmmakers collaborate and turn out a masterpiece

Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA
19 August 2008

Jean Pierre Melville and Jean Cocteau are my two favorite filmmakers from France, but for me, they couldn't be more opposite in style. Melville is best known for minimalist, low-key, and realistic crime dramas such as "Le Samourai" and "Army of Shadows", whereas Jean Cocteau creates operatic and dreamlike fantasies such as "Beauty and the Beast". I was worried, despite my love for both auteurs, that Melville directing and Cocteau writing the screenplay wouldn't mesh at all. Fortunately, their collaboration turned out an absolutely gorgeous masterpiece. Jean Cocteau narrates the film in his typically poetic style. This adds a dreamlike layer to a film full of bizarre yet plausible situations, so it doesn't go against Melville's established sense of realism.

The direction by Melville is, unsurprisingly, superb. This was before he made his more acclaimed masterpieces, but its obvious he was very skilled from the start. The pacing is perfect without a single scene or shot gone to waste. The acting by the youths is uneven, which is the only slight flaw. Edouard Dermithe (who later starred in Cocteau's "Orpheus" and "The Testament of Dr. Orpheus") is too melodramatic and over-the-top, but the rest of the cast fares very well. Nicole Stéphane in particular is terrific as the cold sister fanatically devoted to her brother. Fortunately, Cocteau manages to avoid any incestuous undertones that a cheaper artist would feel compelled to attach to the material (and honestly, I was frightened that they'd be present here initially). I'm glad the great Criterion has released this film to DVD. Hopefully, it'll obtain the larger audience it deserves. (9/10)

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2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Troubling to Say the Least

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
24 February 2010

This movie really creeps me out. I have trouble getting past the incestuous relationship of the principle characters. Once it established that they have this sexually tense thing going, sleeping in the same room, at each other's throats one minute, loving the next, I was able to look at it as a portrait of a kind of sickness, a sickness of the mind. It also has one of the most villainous characters ever portrayed in the cinema. It builds a continuous movement toward self destruction and annihilation. The acting is superb but I could barely look at the two. One part was the fact that a man who appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties was supposed to be sixteen years old. The sister looks to be about thirty. Still, once I got over this, it totally captivated me. Anyway, I need to explore more of Melville's film to see where this led.

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14 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Brother and sister.

Author: dbdumonteil
20 October 2003

"LES PARENTS TERRIBLES" directed by Cocteau himself : an over possessive mother and her selfish husband destroy their son's life.

"LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES" directed by Jean -Pierre Melville: a sister and a brother tear each other in pieces .The sister is Nicole Stephane whose performance is quite impressive ,and she rises to the occasion when it comes to portray such a terrifying character (Cocteau lines are mysterious and threatening,"she didn't marry him for love , neither she did for his money but she did it for his death")When we make acquaintance with them,they live under a "carapace" and their mother -soon to die- is no more alive than Mrs Bates in "psycho" .Around them,a young man and a young girl who will be no more than puppets in their hands (mainly Elisabeth's (Stephane))Halfway between cinema and theater -but as when Cocteau himself directed- we never feel we are watching a filmed stage production.The dialogue is weird,now childlike ,now intriguing,often bewildering ,always brilliant with terrific lines like the one I quote above.The voice over ,which is often superfluous in other works -is here thoroughly relevant -and besides it's Cocteau's voice!-

Children who refuse to grow up?A fraid of the world outside?Youngsters fascinated by death? Incestuous relationship?

Strange how ,with the staggering exception of "la belle et la bête " ,Cocteau's movies display a gloomy cold atmosphere and a doomed fate :his "l'aigle à deux têtes" and "les parents terribles" as well as Delannoy's "l'éternel retour" and "la princesse de CLèves" or Pierre Billon's "Ruy Blas".

As for Melville,I always preferred his non-gangsters movies (this one,"le silence de la mer" "Léon Morin prêtre" ,"l'armée des ombres" ) to his thrillers (the likes of "le samouraï " or "le cercle rouge" ) which are no more than rehash of American film noirs with absurd metaphysical pretensions at that.

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1 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Problem Child 2 did it better.

Author: K-e-r-m-o-d-e from United Kingdom
26 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie inspired the 1990's movie classic Problem Child 2. However, the production of this earlier clone is far weaker. The cinematography is not a patch on Problem Child 2. The performances are variable. Some average, some awful. The problem with this movie is that it wants to be an outright comedy but refuses to admit it. At times you can sense that the director was longing to put a banana skin in the path of its main character. The scene with the terrible child. That could have been far superior if the child had thrown a bucket of custard over the adult and ran off. There are too many scenes in which the main characters do not do anything remotely hilarious. Missed opportunities are the achilles heel of this movie.

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