Au Revoir, Les Enfants

1987, Movie, PG, 104 mins

Review

AU REVOIR, LES ENFANTS | GOODBYE, CHILDREN
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A delicately rendered and exceptionally moving reminiscence of a boyhood friendship cut short by war. Louis Malle's semi-autobiographical film is set in January, 1944, during the German Occupation of France. Julien (Gaspard Manesse) is a privileged, precocious 12-year old with a doting mother and a superior attitude. Sent away to a provincial Catholic boarding school, he easily outclasses his loutish schoolmates until the arrival of Bonnet (Raphael Fejto), who is cultivated, literate, and oddly circumspect about revealing his background. At first, Julien hopes to expose and humiliate his rival, but their common interests lead to an uneasy alliance and finally friendship. Then Bonnet's secret is revealed: he is a Jew being hidden from the Gestapo by schoolmaster Fr. Jean (Philippe Morier-Genoud).

One of director-producer-writer Malle's most personal projects, AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS can be seen as the completion of a trilogy that began with MURMUR OF THE HEART (1971), a sunny comedy of evolving postwar manners, and continued with a darkly-hued portrait of a teenaged collaborator, LACOMBE LUCIEN (1974). All three films are about maturation during a decade of political upheaval, and each is concerned with choices thrust upon children--choices inevitably compromised by social and familial pressures beyond a child's control. Like the earlier films, AU REVOIR rejects any notion of youthful innocence, making it a bracingly welcome exception to the post-E.T. slew of films romanticizing childhood. Malle is adept at eliciting mature performances from children, and Manesse and Fejto are excellent even by adult standards. leave a comment

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