Wednesday, March 17, 2010

1968: L'enfance nue (Maurice Pialat)

1968: L'enfance nue (Maurice Pialat)
Maurice Pialat has never really caught on in this country.  Certain of his titles, and he didn't make that many films, remain without distribution in the States.  But according to French cinephiles I know, he is considered the most important French director to emerge post-Nouvelle Vague.  Along with Leos Carax, he's certainly been the most important to me.  

L'enfance nue, Pialat's debut feature, is one of his titles that's not terribly easy to find.  In fact, I've only seen it once and that was at the old Cinematheque, Palais de Chaillot (the namesake of my production company).  With Ken Loach's Kes, it's my favorite film about the vulnerabilities and dangers of childhood.  In typical Pialat fashion, this one's emotionally raw and unsentimental, formally natural and unobtrusive.

Pialat might be too tame formally for the general American public, or his lack of sentimentality might be the turn-off.  Whatever it is, in my book he remains one of the giants of the last fifty years.  An honest, deep, keen filmmaker, a certain Bressonian purity coupled with Nicholas Ray's emotionality.  I can only hope that Pialat will soon get his due stateside.  We've been deprived long enough of this truly great body of work.

Other contenders for 1968: A good number of titles I still need to see.  These include:  Nagisa Oshima's Death by Hanging, John Cassevetes' Faces, Alain Resnais' Je t'aime, je t'aime, Mel Brooks' The ProducersJean Eustache's La rosiere de pessac, Ingmar Bergman's Shame, Richard Lester's Petulia, Lindsay Anderson's If..., Tomas Gutierrez Alea's Memories of Underdevelopment, and Orson Welles' The Immortal Story.  Although I have no runners-up this year, I need to revisit Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and Stanley Kubrick's 2001. It's been too long since I've seen any of them to know where they'd place on this list.  

5/8/11 I watched Mel Brooks' The Producers.  I loved Gene Wilder in this, and really liked a scene or two.  But otherwise, I didn't find it all that funny and just a little tiresome after awhile.  

5/9/11 I watched John Cassavetes' Faces.  A tough go, for sure.  But Cassavetes definitely is up to some interesting stuff in terms of framing and editing, and he pushes through some cinematic artifice that most people can never completely overcome.  

6/13/11 I watched Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet.  Although the most famous romance ever, it didn't grab me like some other movie romances.  Zeffirelli actually proved most effective for me during a couple of the fight sequences.  His collaboration with the great Nino Rota is also memorable.  

9/7/14 I watched Orson Welles' The Immortal Story.  One of the few works by Welles I had never seen is yet another testament to the director's genius and brilliance.  The story is labyrinthine and deeply auto-biographical for anyone who wants to think about it in terms of Welles' one-off success with Kane.  It joins Renoir's Partie de campagne as one of the medium's all time great short efforts.  It is incredibly poignant and powerful in spite of the limited means it surely seems Welles had at his disposal.  

7/23/17 I watched Gordon Douglas' The Detective.  I had never heard of this film until recently when I saw it was programmed as part of a series at the Paris Cinematheque focused on 70s American cop movies.  Sinatra proves he was once again a double-threat as a singer and actor, very comfortable in front of the camera and believable in a number of roles.  Bisset was gorgeous, reminiscent of  Julie Christie during this period, but even sexier and with an even more dangerous sensuality.  And the film, though raw and uneven, goes deeper than most detective films and gives a real sense of the feelings and conflicted morality many people in the profession must face.  

8/4/17 I watched Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff.  A tedious Right vs Left police film that never ever connected for me.

10/28/17 I watched Frederick Wiseman's High School.  What jumped out at me first was how consistent Wiseman remained from this film to At Berkeley.  The philosophy, the aesthetic, the sensibility all felt unusually similar to the filmmaker's approach forty years later.  Because of its length, this one was less immersive and affecting but great to see another work by the immense filmmaker.

10/12/19 I watched George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  I can see its inventiveness and I can see its influence on the latest Jarmusch or Carpenter or Jordan Peele.  I just never fully got into it.  

5/11/24 I watched DA Pennebaker's Monterey Pop.  Great portrait of 1968 America and its music scene.  Particularly interesting to see Janis and Jimi and their huge talents at work.


  1. Jeffrey, I saw this Pialat film just recently, as I acquired five titles of his on the Masters of Cinema Region 2 DVD series. It's an excellent choice I must say!

    My Own #1 Film of 1968:

    Memories of Underdevelopment (Alea; Cuba)


    The Producers (Brooks)
    Goto, Island of Love (Borowcyzk; France)
    Romeo and Juliet (Zeffirelli; Italy; USA)
    Hour of the Furnaces (Solanes; Spain)
    2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
    Inferno of First Love (Hani; Japan)
    Once Upon A Time in the West (Leone; USA; Italy)
    The Devil Rides Out (Fisher; UK)
    Shame (Bergman; Sweden)
    Oliver! (Reed; UK)
    The Cremator (Herz; Czechoslovakia)
    Night of the Living Dead (Romero)
    Les Bitches (Chabrol; France)
    L'Enfance Nue (Pialat)
    Witchfinder General (Reeves; UK)

    I erroneously placed THE PRODUCERS on last year's list, but it belongs here. MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT, a compelling existential political work, is the greatest film ever to come out of Cuba, and several others here rank highly.

  2. Sam, great to hear from you! I have moved THE PRODUCERS on my own post from 1967 to 1968.

    I'm so glad you finally got to see this Pialat. I know you're a fan of KES and thought you might really like this one, too.

    I still need to see your top pick, as well as GOTO, ISLAND OF LOVE, HOUR OF THE FURNACES, and INFERNO OF FIRST LOVE.

    Thanks, Sam. Always a treat to have your perspective!

  3. I am a big, big fan of Pialat. His films are hard to find domestically, but as Sam notes, Masters of Cinema has been releasing much of his work on DVD in the UK, and all of those are well worth getting. He's a great director, and this debut, while not as strong as the work he'd go on to do, is a worthy first feature. It nods to the tradition of rebel youth pictures in France — Zero for Conduct, The 400 Blows — and provides a poignant portrait of forgotten children.

    Some of my favorites:
    Night of the Living Dead
    Artists in the Big Top: Perplexed
    Signs of Life (another fantastic debut from a director who'd go on to even greater things)
    Play Dirty (wonderfully dark Andre de Toth war flick)
    Faces (by the American Pialat; heh)
    Shame/Hour of the Wolf (great Bergman double feature)
    Once Upon a Time in the West

    And my #1 pick: Chabrol's witty, twisty Les biches

  4. Ed, I didn't know that about the Masters of Cinema series. That's great info!

    Although I have to disagree a little with this one statement, "...while not as strong as the work he'd go on to do...", it's great to know that you love Pialat, too. Of course, we're just talking about differing opinions here.

    Of the others you mention, I still need to see PLAY DIRTY, HOUR OF THE WOLF, LES BICHES, SIGNS OF LIFE, and ARTISTS UNDER THE BIG TOP: PERPLEXED.

    Always a treat to have you here, Ed. Thanks!

  5. Jeffrey, I am not familiar with your pick. My own choice is a tough call between “Rosemary’s Baby”, “If” and “Belle de Jour.” On any given day, I could switch between these three. On Dave’s list over at Goodfella’s I went with “Rosemary’s Baby”, but like I said, it changes and for today it is Bunnel’s “Belle de Jour”, a surrealistic sexual journey. The first film by Bunnel I saw.

    “Faces” I have not seen in so long it is impossible to make a judgement and Bergman’s “Shame” is one I have wanted to see but has alluded me.

    BTW – “Once Upon a Time in the West” will be on my ’69 list as it was not released in the U.S. until that year. I generally go with the U.S. release date.

    # 1 – Rosemary’s Baby


    Belle de Jour
    The Producers
    Monterey Pop
    Rachel, Rachel
    Les Biches
    Romeo and Juliet
    Night of the Living Dead
    Hour of the Wolf

  6. Thanks so much, John! From your list, I also still need to see MONTERREY POP and RACHEL, RACHEL.

    Always a treat to have you here. Thanks, John!

  7. Definitely have to go with Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. It's every bit the sprawling epic that it is billed to be and one that I find something new from each time I watch it. Definitely an all-time favorite western for me.

    I also really need to revisit Kubrick's 2001. I've never really been a huge fan, but I picked up a Blu-Ray copy cheap and am looking forward to watching it again. I have read that the Blu-Ray disc is spectacular.

  8. Thanks, Dave! ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is another I really want to revisit in the near future. I love ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and know that this one has an equally great reputation.

    Always great to have you here, Dave. Thanks!

  9. “L’Enfance Nue” by Maurice Pialat describes the situation of children abandoned by their parents to comment about a much more widespread phenomenon of child neglect in today’s society. Abandonment of children is the psychological essence of child neglect. By depicting the destiny of a foster child, Francois – his way to criminality as a violent way of self-assertion, and by analyzing the details of his behavior, Pialat points out the inadequacy of the very organization of the care for abandoned, abused and neglected children in modern society. Foster parents often don’t understand that the abandoned children are not just abandoned but traumatized by this and that they search for reasons why this happened to them. With all the best intentions parents-volunteers don’t know that it is not enough to love a child – traumatized child is mistrustful of adults’ love and is prone to unconsciously resist their influence and authority. Foster parents have to be helped to learn more about child psychology in order to react to the child’s ambivalent feelings less sentimentally. The film is involving and scrupulous research into the psychology of child’s emotional trauma. Some performers from the first glance may look as not professional actors but again and again they surprise the viewers with amazing emotional elaborations of their characters’ reactions. The film is a “fiction” which is more “verite” than many documentaries. Please, visit: to read article about “L’Enfance Nue” - “Stationary Society vs. Children’s Existential Adventurism (Proper Child-Rearing Starts with Humanistic Education of Parents That Can Happen Only if Whole Society Will Invest In It)” – with analysis of shots from the film, and also essays about the films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Kurosawa, Bunuel, Bresson, Antonioni, Pasolini, Alain Tanner, Cavani, Bertolucci, Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Rossellini, Moshe Mizrahi and Ronald Neame.
    By Victor Enyutin

  10. Hi Katia, thanks so much for your wonderful addition! I will definitely read the article that you recommend.