Les enfants terribles (1950)
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- Les Enfants Terribles
- 105 min.
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This felt like a Cocteau film, not Melville. Interesting, but I would not call great.
Les enfants terribles is an early Jean-Pierre Melville and therefore not the type of gangster film he will become best known for, not to say there's no crime in it. Based on Cocteau's novel, it deals with the toxic relationship between a brother and sister, too close for the audience's comfort, the latter manipulative and evil, the former at once playmate and victim, and quite possibly closeted. It tended to keep me at arm's length, unfortunately, with its élans of poetic narration by Cocteau himself and its unlikable characters, played by actors perhaps too old for the parts. The third act, however, is terrific neo-Gothic, where we go from vignettes to intrigue, and where the poetry and visuals start to move together towards a fatalistic end. By that time, one will have started appreciating the play on male/female twins Melville and Cocteau engage in - the two leads, Renée Cosima's dual role, the mustached bust - and understand this as the story of one twin/side devouring the other (the boy's mysterious illness). Narcissism, self-loathing, self-destruction, the themes are so powerful they might push the characters into the poetic/abstract, which is both the film's strength and its weakness.
Seems Melville lost his mind with this one...
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #74 in François Truffaut's The Films in My Life
This movie ranks #202 in BFI's 360 Classic Feature Films Project
This movie ranks #288 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #408 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #421 in The Criterion Collection