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Friday, July 5, 2013

Blogging the Hulu Plus Criterion Collection: Au Revoir Les Enfants

Au Revoir Les Enfants

Once again we're back to the old Blockbuster foreign movie section standards. Au Revoir Les Enfants is a title I've know about for over twenty years now. I remember seeing the VHS box sitting there alongside Amarcord and the Bicycle Thief. Part of the reason is that the movie was made at the right time. It was made in 1987, just when VHS stores were becoming a thing. It had earned rave reviews. So of course every store with a foreign section was going to put it in there.

The story is simple but powerful. Julien, an adolescent, returns to a Catholic boarding school in 1944 France. The Germans occupy the country and they are deporting Jews and others. Julien meets a new classmate Jean. At first they are combative but eventually they form a tight friendship. Julien discovers Jean is actually Jewish and that he and a few other students are being protected by the priest in charge of the school. It all comes to and end one day. Julien discovers one of his friends has turned in Jean and the others. Jean, the other students and the priest are taken away and we later learn that they all die in concentration camps.

After all the fuss I wish I had more to say about this film. It's well made and well acted. Louis Malle is the director and I had a similar reaction to his other film And the Pursuit of Happiness. I liked it. I can't find anything wrong with it. But it didn't blow my hair back. I will say that ending is very good. There's one scene in particular that stands out. A Gestapo inspector enters the classroom where Julien and Jean are sat with the rest of the class. The inspector demands to know if there are any Jews in the class. Julien, concerned about his friend turns towards Jean. But that one gesture gives the boy away. It's a terrible moment in which a good person is betrayed by his better instincts.

It's a good movie for certain. It's tightly directed and the story is excellent. Directors and screenwriters should give this one a look. As for me, I like it, I respect it, but for whatever reason that's as far as it goes.

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