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Naked Childhood (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

Cast overview:
Michel Terrazon ...
François
Linda Gutemberg ...
Simone
Raoul Billerey ...
Roby
Pierrette Deplanque ...
Josette
Marie-Louise Thierry ...
Madame Minguet
René Thierry ...
Minguet
Henri Puff ...
Raoul
Marie Marc ...
Meme
Maurice Coussonneau ...
Letillon
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Storyline

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 drowns 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 woman, a kindly grandmother 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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Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated

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Release Date:

22 January 1969 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Naked Childhood  »

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Trivia

Film debut of Michel Terrazon. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Captures the essence of humanity
16 August 2015 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

François Fournier (Michel Terrazon) is a ten-year old boy dumped into the foster care system in France by his single mother, whom the film suggests was mentally ill. Maurice Pialat's first feature L'enfance nue is an unsentimental look at the foster care system in France and its effects on those in its care. Written by Maurice Pialat and Arlette Langmann and performed by non-professional actors with much of the dialogue unscripted, L'enfance nue comes from the director's own experience of being raised by his grandparents and the emotional distance he felt towards his biological mother and father. Though the film lacks peak dramatic moments and emotional payoffs, in its volatile main character; it captures the essence of humanity, in all of its contradictions.

François personifies that ambivalence. He can be goodhearted and mean-spirited, cruel and kind, angry and loving, a cauldron of emotions that are sometimes hidden below the surface and sometimes acted out. Like most children, he is inarticulate and is at a loss to explain his actions, but the film does not seek any explanation. It just observes rather than judges. As the film opens, we see a protest march about economic conditions, but we soon learn that this is not a political statement, only a suggestion of the socio-economic area in which the film is set. François is living in the home of foster parents Simone (Linda Gutemberg) and Roby Joigny (Roual Billerey) who are unable to have their own children.

We see him steal a watch, then flush it down the toilet, dropping his foster sister Josette's (Pierrette Deplanque) cat down a stairwell, refusing to eat, and peeing on the floor around his bed. Unable to cope, his foster parents deliver him back to Social Services but, again confounding our expectations, François lovingly buys a gift for his foster mother and seems genuinely sad about leaving. After a revealing scene at the adoption center where prospective parents size up the orphans in a way that reminded me of the slave auction in "12 Years a Slave," François is placed in the home of an older couple, the Thierry's (Marie-Louise and René Thierry, real-life foster parents) whom he calls Grandma and Grandpa.

Also in the home are Raoul (Henri Puff), a teenage foster child, a younger girl, and Mrs. Thierry's elderly mother Nana (Marie Marc), who is mostly confined to bed. François responds to the tenderness shown by Nana who reads to him, sings songs with him, and talks about her life. They even discuss the meaning of the word "mistress." We think there is progress when he shows a sense of guilt for the first time after he steals Nana's coin purse and then quietly puts it back under her pillow. François is also drawn to Grandpa and spontaneously kisses him after he hears stories about the old man's activities with the French Resistance during World War II.

Eventually, however, even the Thierry's begin to question his normality after he throws a knife at Raoul, deliberately spills soup on his brother's lap, smokes cigarettes and hangs out with his neighborhood toughs who together decide to throw iron bars at passing cars from an elevated bridge, an adventure that leads to serious consequences. With his very expressive eyes that seem to look right through you, Michel Terrazon is remarkable as the young man acting out his anger. Others are notable as well including Henri Puff's as young Raoul, but it is Terrazon's memorable performance that remains with us and haunts our dreams.


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