Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Au Revoir Les Enfants: There's Another 105 Minutes I'll Never Get Back*

I'll do what director Louis Malle should have. I'm going to make this mercifully brief and to the point.

A young, privileged French boy in a Catholic boarding school in Nazi-occupied France mostly despises and later befriends another young boy who has a touch of mystery about him. It is just a touch. The audience can tell fairly easily that the boy is Jewish and is being hidden at the school by the priest.

Although beautifully photographed, this story goes nowhere as slowly as possible, failing to develop characters enough for us to care about them until around the last twenty minutes of the movie. At that point it became interesting as the Nazis made their usual menacing selves more obvious.

The biggest crime in the movie is that Malle showed us nothing new. Autobiographical or not, the characters are those we've seen before, as are the motivations and the lessons.

I'm not against slow movies. Babette's Feast was also almost ponderously slow and beautifully shot. The difference, and it is crucial, is that Babette's Feast showed us something new and gave us much food for thought at the end. There was a payoff and it was one that kept us talking about it for weeks.

This story mattered to Louis Malle because it was semi-autobiographical. It didn't to me or the three others who watched it with me.

Update:
I meant to say that we researched Louis Malle's other films after seeing this. Upon seeing that he also directed My Dinner with Andre, Tom reevaluated his review, "I now realize that for Malle this was a sprightly and fast-paced look at school days." Which tells you all you need to know about our view of that movie, which we never made it through despite our best efforts. 'Nuff said.

*I'll just say it now ... yes, I'm in the minority, based on the many acclaims the movie has received. I remain unmoved by them and stick to my guns on this.

11 comments:

  1. I'll take your word for it as you've never steered me wrong before. BTW, any recommendations for TV series to stream via Netflix after having plowed through BSG in the course of a couple weeks and already having watched Firefly/Serenity? Doesn't necessarily have to be SciFi.

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  2. Arrested Development.

    Malcolm in the Middle (the first three or four seasons).

    Spaced (British, Simon Pegg. You'll love it or hate it.).

    I hear the Dr. Who reboot is great though I haven't seen it yet.

    I just got Slings and Arrows because it has been recommended so many times, though I haven't seen it ... I'll let you know on that. (My royalty advance mad money spending!)

    I'm going to check my dvds when I get home for more ideas.

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  3. Ouch. Don't hold back, Julie D.; tell us how you REALLY feel!

    :)

    Mack

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  4. It's part of my "charm." Right? Is that the word I want? :-D

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  5. Tante Léonie3/30/11, 10:26 PM

    Hahaha!Loved your review, Julie!

    I haven't seen it, and don't plan to. I have an aversion to earnest films about Jews and Nazis.

    Tim, I'm putting my unsolicited opinion in for "Breaking Bad."

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  6. I think I liked it more than you. According to Netflix, I watched it a little over a year ago and gave it 4 stars. But I don't remember much about it, so I guess I didn't love it.

    Not to get off on a rant, but I really wish Netflix allowed half stars. As it is, 4 stars could mean anything from 7/10 (solid, well-made, not a waste of time but nothing particularly original or memorable) to 9/10 (approaching greatness).

    By the way, I watched Stranger Than Fiction a couple of weeks ago. A solid 9, possibly upgradeable to 10 if it holds up on repeated watching. Never seen anything quite like it.

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  7. Tom, I loved Stranger Than Fiction too. So much so that it will be the movie that Scott and I discuss on Good Story in a couple of weeks. :-)

    And ditto on the half-star problem. No one seems to do it.

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  8. Thanks for the suggestions, all. We have watched the first two seasons of Breaking Bad and are waiting for season three to make it to Netflix. Can't bring myself to purchase the DVD's though as I'm not one to view shows multiple times. Anyone know if Eureka! is worth a look?

    I really enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction even though it had at least two actors I usually find annoying (Farrel and Hoffman). The inclusion of Wreckless Eric's song Whole Wide World was an extra special bonus.

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  9. We loved the first season of Eureka ... and I believe also the second. It is really fun and has the geek element that I love in Troy and Abed on Community.

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  10. slings and arrows is so great.

    this review matches perfectly with my feelings on this film (and several other "great" "important" and "serious" films.)

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  11. Margaret ... once again: soul mates! :-)

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