In a small town in post-World-War-II France, an unhappy sixteen-year-old (Janine Castang) tries to escape her dreary situation by any means at her disposal. Three successive friends (Michel... See full summary »
In a small town in post-World-War-II France, an unhappy sixteen-year-old (Janine Castang) tries to escape her dreary situation by any means at her disposal. Three successive friends (Michel Davenne, a married lover; Raoul, a fellow thief; Mauricette Dargelos, a photographer and fellow prisoner) help her learn from her mistakes. Written by
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She steals from the church to go to the movies. Janine, you've got to like her. But her own life is unlike the song-and-dance pictures she likes so much. It's more like a ballad, set to music in a minor key. As Bob Dylan famously put it: "She'd come away from a broken home, had lots of strange affairs, with men in every walk of life which took her everywhere." While Janine may have the genes of a flirt and a crook, it's the men she meets that take her from petty theft to grand larceny. She finds out the hard way there are limits even for a pretty girl and ends up in a nunnery that is half poorhouse, half prison. By showing us what she does, rather than narrating what happens to her, Claude Miller brings to life a story (written by none other than François Truffaut himself) that may easily have turned out corny at a lesser man's hands. The 1950s rural and Parisian sets are designed with just the right mixture of dedication and détente to make you forget it's only make-belief. The whole thing feels entirely natural and deeply touching at the same time. The biggest credit, of course, is due to the amazing Charlotte Gainsbourg and her arresting performance in the part of Janine. She resists the temptation of playing her as a teenage martyr and makes her a cheeky Cinderella instead.
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