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While Francois Truffaut made many wonderful films, he was always at his
when dealing with children. In "Small Change" he handles many of the same
themes as he did in his classic "The 400 Blows." But this time he is
capturing the joy of childhood, not the pain. One could say, in fact, that
this is "The 400 Blows" with sugar frosting on top. It is a pure delight
from beginning to end.
Scenes to watch for: 1) Little Gregory's adventure at the window (a scene that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud), 2) The double date at the movies, and 3) The teacher watching the birth of his first child.
Francois, why did you have to leave us so soon?
I've watched many of Truffaut's films and have found most of them to
really quite wonderful. This film has solidified his status in my book as
the best of the French New Wave. I've waited to actually say that in print
until I'd seen a good number of the offerings from the movement. Godard is
too gimmicky, Chabrol too one track(though still well loved), Rohmer too
static(but charming),Demy doesn't have the filmography and neither does
Resnais or Varda(Demy's wife). Truffaut's films have a sensitivity, an
intimacy and a simple quality that speak volumes to me.
Small Change(Pocket Money)has all of those qualities and more. I laughed and I cried but I never once felt that this great director had manipulated me. Sometimes films with children have a tendency to make me feel used. My heart strings pulled in every direction and twisted into every shape. Truffaut had no intention of mauling the senses instead he lets the childrens lives unfold naturally with the joys and sadnesses of all children. It was my very own memory of childhood for there is some child in this film who represents all of us.
Small Change is a movie about the many children in a French town. It will
irritate those who want a strong plot line. Although there are a couple
continuing threads, particularly about a boy facing physical abuse at
the film is mostly episodic and jumps randomly among dozens of children
unconnected events. In that sense, it is sort of like the way we tend to
remember our own childhoods. I liked the approach.
There are several memorable sequences. I enjoyed the girl who wants to go out to dinner on her own terms and the spur of the moment "double date" at the movie theater.
One of the strengths of Small Change is that doesn't try to play up the cuteness of the child actors or overly-sentamentalize its subject matter. It is about the frustrations as well as the small joys of childhood. The adult characters are also very realistic, some of whom like kids and some of whom don't. The school teachers are the most sympathetic, one of whom seems to articulate the film's theme in a strong a monologue near the end.
This is a beautiful movie. It portrays the drama of childhood very
realistically and accurately captures the workings of children's minds as
they try to make sense of a world that seems tremendously confusing at
times. The film deals with all aspects of childhood, from school cafeterias
to child abuse, without much adult interpretation of the events. For the
most part Truffault is an observer who simply takes the world of these
children for what it is: an incomplete, thus
innocent, mysterious reality to be figured out by the children in due time.
The only time in the movie where he does not do this is the speech by the
teacher towards the end of the movie about childrens' rights and the
formation of a childrens' political party or some such nonsense (very
French--I suppose all French movies must have a "French"
moment or two, so all is forgiven).
That having been said, this movie is brilliant and Truffault remains a master, in my eyes.
This a very French film, with generous helpings of humanity, humour and a sense of poetic realism. It is unpretentious and simple, yet very accurate and witty on its depiction of the realistic/surrealistic world children inhabit. There are several brilliant sequences; for instance, the scene where a rather shy boy (who lives a secluded life with his handicapped father) displays a healthy appetite while sharing a dinner at a schoolmate's home is poignant yet reassuringly lively and optimistic. We are also reminded that children are very resilient (watch the sequence involving the little Gregory and his cat.) With this film, François Truffaut reaffirmed his mastery as a film-maker and urban poet.
Instead of characterizing children as angelic creatures without personality or true emotions, Truffaut portrays them as they are: young people with their own dreams and everyday problems. This movie is funny and touching, never slow and always enjoyable.
Small Change unfolds like a poem - it's a collection of moments,
thoughts and experiences, all clustered together, adding up to a very
significant outcome. What it amounts to is the most thoughtful
reflections of childhood I've ever seen, given from the perspective of
many different age groups.
The film has many scenes that are used as a vehicle to illustrate the differences between children and adults - usually comparing the former favorably to the latter. This is clear in a scene where a girl and her father watch two seemingly identical goldfish swimming around in a fishbowl. "That's Plic" says the girl. "And that's Ploc." But her father can't see the difference. A child's superior eye for detail has rarely been so clearly exposed on film.
Most of the vignettes are funny. Some demonstrate childhood resilience, such as a scene where a toddler falls nine stories but is uninjured. Another shows children's uncanny ability to make the best of a bad situation, when a girl left alone at home thinks of an interesting way to draw attention to herself.
But among these funny episodes a more serious situation develops. The movie slowly but sharply draws a contrast between the children who come from loving families, and one child, a youth of about 13, who does not. Moments of this abused child's life are also closely observed - the pain of rejection, the joy of finding coins on the ground at an amusement park, and the innovative schemes to get by and survive. Julien's childhood is shown as a painful period, but an occasionally magical one nonetheless.
What is so pleasurable about viewing Small Change is its simplicity - it's rarely a film where you constantly need to grope your mind for implications or deeper meaning. Most of the scenes are remarkably uncluttered, just like childhood itself.
Unbelievably, this film was rated R upon its original release, then rightfully changed to a PG upon public outcry. A PG-13 would probably be the most appropriate rating, but this classification wouldn't come into effect for another 7 years. It is completely appropriate for children, but does seem geared primarily towards adults. Because the language is quite simple, it could also be viewed as an ideal movie in second or third year French. Not just for fans of Truffaut, I couldn't recommend this remarkable movie more.
How to denounce social subjects? It is not easy. This excellent French movie director, Truffaut made it in "A small change" and in such a vivid way that I felt moved and touched by all children that were acting. And I always try to respect the culture of each movie director I found the words of the teacher at the end of the movie very smart. He was giving his last words before Summer vacations. And while many kids were going to have fun one of the class had been abused! This was good. It shows compromise and respect towards our pals, our classmates, etc. It was great!
When this film was released,one French critic,Gilles Colpart wrote that TRuffaut did better when he focused on a main character,Antoine Doinel,for instance.At least here,we do not have to stand Jean-Pierre Léaud's mannerism.The people who watch Léaud's movies dubbed in English cannot imagine how lucky they are.Gone is Léaud,gone is Truffaut's sometimes smugness and pretension.Here we find what Truffaut does best:a movie about children played by children (he had brilliantly succeeded in the very hard task of bringing Victor the "wild child" to the screen)A lot of humor (a quality that is not generally Truffaut's forte),a lot of plots and subplots masterfully intertwined,no stars ,and a lot of spontaneity too.These vignettes are often delightful:the reluctant student declaiming Molière,the girl who "has already slept with a boy"(What did he do when you were in bed?her best friend asks-Oh,he read a comic strip, was the answer),the boy who says to his friend's mother "thanks for this frugal meal" after having swallowed a whole lot of food.But Truffaut,present in the movie through the schoolteacher character,does not give up more serious topics:here mistreated children.After he discovered one of his pupils suffered such physical cruelty,the schoolteacher explains this problem to his school mates with delicacy and intelligence,as if they were adults.Don't miss this simple,yet heart-warming movie.
I watched this movie with my girlfriend one night, and she commented on the
fact that the children never change clothes. At first I thought she was
referring to the poor, abused child. But I noticed that the costumes for
the other children remained the same. I studied film in college, and I
thought for a long while why Truffaut would want to keep the costumes the
same. My theory is that Truffaut wanted to capture these kids at one
certain point in there lives where they don't change. Children grow up so
fast, they become teenagers, then adults. By the time adulthood sets in,
they've become somewhat jaded by the world around them. By keeping the kids
in the same costumes, I think Truffaut is trying to capture the moment in
there lives where they remained the same. Although first love and
heartbreak is inevitable, at least, for one brief period, we see these kids
in a state of grace. I think this point is also strengthened by the fact
that Truffaut used the children's real names for their
This is the type of film parents wished were made more often, except when these films are made, nobody goes to see them (Another good example of a family film that bombed is "Searching For Bobby Fisher"). This is the perfect family film. It's charming, touching and filled with laughter. No wonder Steven Spielberg suggested it to Truffaut.
If this film doesn't touch your heart, you probably don't have one.
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