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L'Enfance Nue (1968)

L'enfance nue (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 22 January 1969 (France)
An anguished foster child takes to mischief and lies as his foster parents do their best to love and care for him. But it might be too little, too late in this emotionally devastating portrayal of the orphaned child.



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Cast overview:
Michel Terrazon ...
Linda Gutemberg ...
Raoul Billerey ...
Pierrette Deplanque ...
Marie-Louise Thierry ...
Madame Minguet
René Thierry ...
Henri Puff ...
Marie Marc ...
Maurice Coussonneau ...


A ten-year-old boy feels unwanted when his mother places him in a home for wayward children. He goes to a foster home where a family of workers finds him to be too much for them. When the unruly child discovers the family plans to give up on him, he kills their daughter's cat in retaliation. He is sent to another home where he is cared for by an elderly couple. The boy takes to the wife's elderly mother, who reaches out to the disturbed boy. His deliberate disobedience lessens somewhat in his new environment, but he is arrested after throwing bolts at cars from a bridge. The boy tries to overcome his mother's rejection and struggles to boost his self-image in this childhood drama. Written by Dan Pavlides

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Not Rated

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Release Date:

22 January 1969 (France)  »

Also Known As:

L'Enfance Nue  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Film debut of Michel Terrazon. See more »

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User Reviews

the four hundred "yawns" to the power of 1000
16 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

This is Maurice Pialat's debut movie and François Truffuat offered him to produce his first effort. Not only because he was at the time a seasoned filmmaker (a dozen of films so far for a man who was 36 years old whereas Pialat shot his first film when he was 42!) but because the topic could only please him. Indeed, Truffaut's first film, "les 400 coups" (1959) revolved around the same subject and was a big critical, commercial hit. However, Truffaut like the rest of the crew who worked with Pialat wasn't prepared to the director's unconventional shooting methods and consequently the two men will never talk to each other again for several years.

Pialat used to say that he refused everything planned in the shooting of his films and "l'Enfance Nue" was inescapable to this scheme. Better, it was indispensable to have a genuine, deeply moving work as a result. Created in the chaos with tensions and having to rely on a shoestring budget, "l'Enfance Nue" is part of the top five films about stolen childhood alongside Julien Duvivier's "Poil De Carotte" (1932) and Luigi Commencini's "Incompreso" (1966). What "les 400 Coups" tried to reach, "l'Enfance Nue" achieved it. It's a much stronger flick than Truffaut's very overrated work. The piece of work from the former critic at the fusty "Cahiers Du Cinéma" suffered from a loose narration and cardboard characters which made it a bit humdrum to watch.

Given the two other films Pialat gave us after his 1969 vintage: "Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble" (1972) and "La Gueule Ouverte" (1974), these three films have often been perceived as a sort of trilogy of life and Pialat's treatment of stolen childhood is drastically different to Truffaut's. He opted for a nearly documentary approach and tried as best as he could to reproduce working class life as it was in the Northern France of the sixties. A method he will tap again with gusto for his next two films. And you can only marvel at Pialat's remarkable camera work and observation. The hero François is a cruel child, perhaps worse than Antoine Doinel who never threw a cat from the top of the stairs! He goes from household to household because his adoptive parents can't stand his cruelty. He's not the only one like that. At the beginning of the film, Pialat shows us numerous orphans in an orphanage who can't manage to find adoptive parents. But when François is put up by an elderly couple, he seems to have found human warmth and comfort from them. Feeling Pialat manages to convey to the audience in an astounding way. You must be tender towards the attention these little old people give to François like when Granny offers him a piece of cake after François was involved in a fight. And in a sequence close to "Cinéma Vérité", they talk about François with their own words and how much do they understand him! More than François's tragic story, Pialat's work encompasses a word picture of Northern France with its ways of life. His depiction is all the more genuine as he hired non professional actors who are in their own roles. During the shooting, Pialat used to write down excerpts of conversation these inhabitants had and to incorporate them in his film. This process of hiring "gifted amateurs" will be tapped again thirty years later for another film set in Northern France: Bruno Dumon's harrowing "la Vie De Jésus" (1997). Anyway, Pialat and Dumont understood well Robert Bresson's one of his cinematographic lessons: to hire non professional actors to reach the scale of purity. That's precisely what Pialat reached even if as a perfectionist he denied his film.

A hard-hitting approach of naked childhood made without any embellishment. Pialat's debut film gains to be as famous and celebrated as Truffaut's so called masterpiece. And be prepared for a river of emotions!

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