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This MTV work is actually the fourth version of Jules Renard's classic story .By and large ,both Duvivier's versions -the silent one and the talkie :1925 and 1932)are hailed as the best ever made whereas Henri Graziani's effort(1973) is forgotten,in spite of Philippe Noiret's excellent portrayal of Monsieur Lepic .
Richard Bohringer did not follow Duvivier's steps and tried to update the novel ,the structure of which making it a story hard to transfer to the screen:no linear story,but a succession of small vignettes .
The two grown up principals are cast against type: Bohringer,often the tough guy of the French cinema,keeps a low profile during the whole movie ("it's not that I don't love her anymore;it's her that does not let me love her ;formerly we used to be happy,she was not like she is today).Obviously he introduces sexual frustration ("she did not want a third child,and I should have been more careful"),absent in the other versions .Casting sexy Fanny Cottençon as the stern Madame Lepic was challenging,and the actress rises to the occasion:actually,I have never seen her better than here.Even a full frontal nudity makes sense in that context.
A third child,and a red-haired brat to boot!It's more than she can endure and she makes him her favorite punching-bag ,pampering his elders (Grand Frere Félix and Grande Soeur Ernestine (=Nicole));the photo album scenes is revealing;the chicken and the "gravy" ("you made it"she says frostily) sequence is even more terrifying ,almost worthy of a horror movie .
Bohringer took lots of liberties with the original novel:the action takes place in 1956 -the sister is 10 and she was born in 1946-,and none of the small scenes of the story is kept:keeping all the proper nouns but one ,Bohringer remained true to the writer's spirit though,finding smart equivalents of his vignettes : the cherries,grandpa's book ,Andersen' "the ugly duckling", Carrot Top ruefully watching one of his school mates run to her affectionate mom;even the poor kid's suicide attempt is featured : he goes on a hunger strike and tries to drown himself.
Thus revivified, this book has a contemporary feel :the first of children's right is to be loved and we feel it all along the film in Carotty's eyes.
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