Jeux interdits in French is a film by René Clément and based on François Boyer’s novel of the same name.
Let me sketch out the opening scene:
During the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 the road out of Paris is clogged with those escaping the city. They are strafed by Nazi fighter planes. Among the panic stricken crowds we meet a 5-year-old girl named Paulette, with her parents. Paulette’s little dog runs onto a bridge. She chases it, and her parents desperately run after her. Bullets kill both parents and fatally wound the dog. Paulette, lying on the ground next to her mother, reaches out a hand to touch the dead cheek, and then touches her own cheek.
Is this a simple war movie? Of course not. In that very unconscious act of a child we note the slow contagion of man’s violence has visited on her, and she speaks for all who have been thus tainted; surely as night follows day every act, good or bad is carried on by our next generation. She may not rationalize death of her mother but connect that mother’s cold cheek to her own to give it a place as it were. This is a powerful movie and it is also an indictment of the world of elders who lay down the rules and add their litte riders to justify their breaking them. They shall speak of ‘Peace with honour or peace that passeth all understanding’ and at the same time wage war to bring their own brand of democracy to some country that holds no borders with them or has nothing by way of culture or religion in common.
A child cannot reason so must invent other means to cope as a hungry child will bawl till it is fed. Forbidden Games is that twilight zone, a territory the child must create for the sins of its parents whose ways are far beyond its ken. A child who takes his father’s pistol from home to school plays a game and it is a forbidden game. Is it forbidden? No, not if we look at the way NRA defends the right to bear arms. Coming back to the film, the traumatized orphan child is taken in by a peasant family and thus Paulette meets ten-year-old Michel Dollé (Georges Poujouly) She quickly becomes attached to Michel as her big brother and the two attempt to cope with the death and destruction that surrounds them by secretly building a small cemetery where they bury her dog and then start to bury other animals, stealing crosses from the local graveyard. “Paulette has never really dealt with the deaths of her parents. She acknowledges that they are gone, but they are gone in theory, not practice; that they are truly dead forever seems to elude her. Yet she becomes fascinated with death, and Michel joins her in burying a mole that was captured by an owl. Soon they are burying every dead thing they can find, even worms, even broken plates. At one point, while they are lying side by side on the floor doing his homework, he stabs a cockroach with his pen. “Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him!” she cries, and he says, “I didn’t. It was a bomb that killed him.”(quoted from Roger Ebert,- Dec18,2005)
Film critic Leonard Maltin has said: “Jeux interdits is almost unquestionably the most compelling and intensely poignant drama featuring young children ever filmed.”
‘Catch them young’ so says the old saw. Naturally the cemetery of Paulette and Michel grows larger as we in adult world enlarge the extent of war memorials all across the globe. Didn’t we learn that from the shadow of two world wars? The two also learn the importance of symbols in a curious way. A grave is no good without a cross they know from their very limited experience. So they begin to steal crucifixes to put above the graves. This entails a subplot involving a feud between the Dolles and their neighbors, the Gouards, who accuse each other of stealing crucifixes. There is also a scuffle between two in the cemetery and falling into a grave. All the while the secret cemetery in the old mill grows more elaborate.
The film was initially turned down by Cannes, then accepted after a scandal. It was turned down by Venice because it had played at Cannes, but accepted after another uproar, and won the Golden Lion as best film, with a best actress award for Fossey.
The film has a scintillating musical score, composed and performed by legendary Spanish classical guitarist Narciso Yepes.
“Forbidden Games” was attacked and praised by adults showing children inventing happiness where none should exist. Film critic Roger Ebert cites the Japanese animated film “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) as another rare film that dared to tackle this theme.
* Georges Poujouly – Michel Dollé
* Brigitte Fossey – Paulette
* Amédée – Francis Gouard
* Laurence Badie – Berthe Dollé
* Suzanne Courtal – Madame Dollé
* Lucien Hubert – Dollé
* Jacques Marin – Georges Dollé
* Pierre Merovée – Raymond Dollé
* Louis Saintève – Le prêtre
* Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1952
* Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award for best picture, 1952
* New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Foregin Language Film, 1952
* BAFTA Award for Best Film, 1953
Directed by René Clément
Produced by Robert Dorfmann
Written by Jean Aurenche
Music by Narciso Yepes
Cinematography Robert Juillard
Running time 102 min.
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987, Louis Malle)
La Fracture du Myocarde (1990, Jacques Fansten)
Europa, Europa (1991, Agnieszka Holland)
Hope and Glory (1987, John Boorman)
Strayed (2003, André Téchiné)
Father of a Soldier (1965, Revaz Chkheidze)
Ezra (2007, Newton I. Aduaka)
Cria Cuervos (1975, Carlos Saura)
Empire of the Sun (1987, Steven Spielberg)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Is Paris Burning? (1966, René Clément)
Les Maudits (1947, René Clément)
Gervaise (1956, René Clément)
The Day and the Hour (1963, René Clément)
La Bataille Du Rail (1945, René Clément)
Monsieur Ripois (1954, René Clément)
Barrage Contre le Pacifique (1957, René Clément)
Au-Dela Des Grilles (1948, René Clément)
Other Related Movies
is related to: Fanny & Alexander (1982, Ingmar Bergman)
# In a television interview (“Vivement Dimanche Prochain”, France 2, 17 April 2005) Brigitte Fossey, who played the little Paulette, revealed that the film had originally been shot as a short, and then it was later decided to extend it into a feature film. Unfortunately she had lost her milk teeth and Georges Poujouly (who plays the boy Michel) had had his hair cut to play in Nous sommes tous des assassins (1952). So, in many scenes of the movie Paulette has false teeth and Michel is wearing a wig.
# Brigitte Fossey’s first film.
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