L’enfance Nue (1968)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
March 7 at 92YTribeca
At 10, Francois (Michael Terrazon) is a mystery to the adults who take in him, and maybe also to himself. At one home, from which he’s expelled, he drops a cat down a stairwell, then attempts to heal him; at the next, the kindly Monsieur et Madame Thierry (real-life foster parents) give him a bedroom and grandparently affection; Francois throws a knife in the direction of his foster brother’s head. He bonds with old Madame Thierry’s ancient mother, a stooped and congenitally cheerful woman, from whom he won’t steal (everyone else is fair game). She, of course, dies. Francois’ mother, having put him in foster care, doesn’t write; his father is a myth; his mischief grows criminal. As with cousin-by-celluloid Antoine Doinel, by film’s end Michael’s fate is uncertain.
Pialat’s L’enfance Nue—Naked Childhood, as in naked truth—is a movie Renata Adler once liked, which is why it’s screening at 92Y 44 years after its 1969 release. Adler, whose novels will soon be rereleased, spent that year as a film critic for the New York Times, briefly orbiting the void left by Bosley Crowther. Just as cranky, after her own manner, she had an appreciation for what she saw as a cinematic trend toward the autobiographical: “scenes that are memorable in a personal way,” growing indistinguishable from our own memories. Unadorned and anecdotal, Pialat’s story of a wayward foster child is precisely that: episodes a grown Francois might remember, with all the necessary opacity of childhood—our reasoning forgotten, the strange machinations of adults fated to go forever unexplained.
Follow us on Twitter @LMagFilm