Friday, January 9, 2009

Movie Ramblings: Jeux Interdits AKA Forbidden Games (1952)

This is officially the saddest film I have ever seen.
Here's the opening: It starts off with a Nazi bomb raid dropping death from the sky as people on a bridge futilely try and run for cover. One such group of people is a little girl, her parents, and the little puppy she holds in her hands. When the bombs stop people run for their cars and wagons, or just try to run and get across the bridge. The dad runs back to to his car, but he shut off and it won't start again. The people behind him, already edgy and scared, and rightly so since they could very well die at anytime, start to get angry and eventually push the car off to the side where it rolls down a hill. Then the planes come back. The parents try and shield the girl as the bombs start to go off but her puppy runs out of her hands and takes off down the road. Girl takes off after puppy, parents take off after girl. When they catch up to her they cover her again and both of them are killed by passing machine gun blasts. The girl, too young to realize whats happened and why her parents aren't moving, grabs her puppy and walks back to the people on the bridge. The problem is her puppy is dead too (I don't know how they got this effect but the dog actually convulses on the ground and in her hands before its finally still). Again she has no idea what death is and has no idea why her little friend isn't moving anymore. The girl is then picked up by a passing cart. The woman tells her to get rid of the dog and then promptly throws it away into the river. The girl sneaks off the cart and runs down beside the water, watching her dog float downstream till she can fish it out. Then she stands by the river with it in her arms, crying and alone.
Is that not the saddest opening for a film ever?

soon the girl, we eventually learn her name is Paulette, is met by Michelle, a boy not much older than herself and brought to his family and their poor farmhouse. They don't want to take her in since they can barley feed themselves, but they realize that they can't leave her to die. Paulette and Michelle become close friends through the course of the movie in the way that only young kids can, while the world is going to Hell around them.
That's all I'll give you for plot, please go watch the film yourself.
One thing I loved about this movie is how real the kids seemed. In most movies the children are precocious brats who exude 'tude' and are always much smarter than their parents. Real children are stupid, to put it bluntly, but it's not their fault. They don't know any better, they haven't lived long enough to learn about the world and how things work. They do stupid things, they are punished, they learn, or they're supposed to. A good example in Games is the scene where Michelle tries to steal a large cross from the church while the preacher is giving confession. (I won't tell you why, again, just put it on your Netflix list). All he succeeds in doing is knocking the cross onto the floor, breaking a chair, and making a huge noise. He then gets several hard smacks on the head from the preacher. He then thinks he has a sneakier way to get crosses, but of course that will eventually get him in more trouble, as anyone could see, but he hasn't lived long enough to learn that everything he does has consequences.
The child actors in this film are so good, I was stunned. Bridgette Fossey, who plays Paulette, shows emotion, especially sadness, better than most adult actors I've seen. When she's crying you just want to pick her up and hold her and tell that its going to be alright. You like both of these kids, you want everything to be alright for them, and you feel bad that they got stuck in such a shitty place, at such a shitty time.
The adult actors are no small shakes either. in fact the whole movie is so well made and so engrossing, dragging you into this window on a different world that I couldn't believe that it lasted an hour and 42 minuets, it went so fast.
Okay, I'll end with my favorite scene. After Paulette arrives at the farm, the oldest brother is run over by a cart. All he can do is lie in bed in pain since the village doctor is occupied healing war injuries. One night he sees a moth flying around the room (actually first we see its shadow looming huge on the wall). The moth is flying around a lamp lit low on a table. As he watches, the moth gets closer and closer to the flame until it hits it and dies. This wasn't just put in randomly of course, it subtly clues the audience in as to the guys fate, without being obvious about it. In most other movies, he'd be screaming in pain all the time, to clue us in that he's not doing so well. I love movies that treat the audience likes its smart, that they will get subtle things, do they even make those anymore? Could a movie like this be made today? No, we can't have real childhood innocence on the screen. We have to have 'tude' and wisecracking and everything has to be cynical and mean and include tons of pop culture references.
So...to give a shout back to my new friend Phantom Spitter, will the Average Joe like this movie? Well, its a French film from the 50s, in black and white, with subtitles, so probably no. The average person would never go near it. Thats why you have people like me to tell you to see movies like this, its usually worth the risk. Try a Fillet Mignon once in awhile instead of fast food cheeseburgers all the time.
Not that fast food cheeseburger movies are really that bad, just don't inhale a ton of them at a time like me and get sick. Its all about balance people. Okay, its late and I am very tired and starting to ramble off course. Hopefully this weekend I'll get to Peter Weir's Last Wave and some more of Tales from the Crypt Season 2.
Good night.

2 comments:

Phantom Spitter said...

Great review! Very interesting! Might I suggest a spoiler warning, though? Meh, I should expect spoilers in a movie review.

I've never seen Forbidden Games, but my aim is to see every classic movie ever done, so I'll look into that.

Ever seen Godard's "Breathless"? If you haven't, SEE THE CRITERION VERSION! All other mainstream versions have screwy picture quality.

Good job, and thanks for the shout-out!

kurdt said...

yeah, I tried not to give too much away, its hard to do a review to make the reader want to see it and not describe at least part of the movie though. Otherwise it'd just be SEE THIS MOVIE or STAY FAR AWAY over and over. Thanks for the movie recommendation! I'll put it on my Netflix list, they usually send me the Criterion versions, if they're available.