Au Revoir, Les Enfants

"Excellent"

Au Revoir, Les Enfants Review


Louis Malle made a lot of films about coming of age and losing childish innocence over his storied career. But none is so powerful as Au Revoir, Les Enfants, Malle's autobiographical tale of the time he spent in a Franch boarding school during the German occupation of his homeland.

The tale revolves around a new student, Jean Bonnet, and one of the other lads there, the pint-sized Julien Quentin. It's obvious to everyone that Bonnet isn't like the other kids -- he has curly hair and doesn't eat pork -- and soon enough the fact that he's Jewish is an open secret among the kids. The Catholic priests have taken him in as an act of charity, along with a few other Jewish boys living under pseudonyms now that their parents have vanished. Think of it as The Diary of Anne Frank by way of Dead Poets Society.

The Nazis make surprise inspections and eventually the subterfuge comes to an end, but not before Quentin's life is changed by the mild-mannered Bonnet. Quentin is at first a prototypical member of the French upper crust, spoiled and kept swimming in jam despite the horrors of the war raging around him. He hasn't a care in the world, and his exposure to a Jew is about as foreign to him as exposure to a camel.

But Bonnet has a subtle, yet powerful, effect on Quentin. So subtle that it's difficult to explain in words, really. Bonnet is gentle where Quentin is crass. Bonnet is happy to be in such a place as the prestigious school. Quentin takes everything for granted.

It's a bit odd, then, that Malle waited until 1987, really the twilight of his career, to make a film that obviously meant so much to him. It's unquestionably his most personal film and arguably his most powerful. But perhaps time away from World War II is what he needed to gain some perspective on his life, and on events that unfolded over 40 years earlier. A trip through the extras on the Criterion box set (see below) may shed some more insight on the matter. Meanwhile, you can simply enjoy the film as an example of stellar filmmaking, on its own merits.

Aka Goodbye, Children.

Now part of a four-disc Criterion set of three Malle films, including Murmur of the Heart and Lacombe, Lucien, plus a fourth disc of extras. Bonus materials range from interviews with Malle actors, interviews with Malle himself, behind the scenes footage, and more, including The Immigrant, the 1917 Chaplin short film that appeared in Les Enfants.



Au Revoir, Les Enfants

Facts and Figures

Run time: 104 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 1st December 1987

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: Nouvelles Éditions de Films (NEF), Stella Films, MK2 Productions, N.E.F. Filmproduktion und Vertriebs (I), Centre National de la Cinématographie, Soficas Investimages, Images Investissements, Sofica Créations, Rai Uno Radiotelevisione

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Gaspard Manesse as Julien Quentin, Raphael Fejtö as Jean Bonnet, Francine Racette as Mme Quentin, as Père Jean, Stanislas Carré de Malberg as François Quentin, as Père Michel, François Négret as Joseph, Xavier Legrand as Babinot, Pascal Rivet as Boulanger, as Mlle Davenne, Richard Leboeuf as Sagard, Peter Fitz as Muller, Arnaud Henriet as Negus, Luc Etienne as Moreau, Jean-Paul Dubarry as Père Hippolyte, Jacqueline Paris as Mme Perrin

Also starring:

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