Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)
Genre: Drama (France, West Germany)
Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejto
Directed By: Louis Malle (My Diner With André; Lacombe Lucien)
Overview: In occupied France, 1944, life in a boys boarding school seems to offer solace from the war, until a new student with a secret arrives.
Acting: I don't know what it is about Hollywood that molests the best actors. If you've seen Amoldovar's Atamé (Tie me Up, Tie Me Down), then you'll know what I'm talking about. Antonio Banderras went from a brilliant Spanish actor to a bit of a laughing stock, all because he wanted to provide for his sick mother and his family over in Spain. Do you know what happens when European actors stay in Europe and make movies directed by European directors? This.
Cinematography: Honestly, I could have used a bit of spicing up in this category. It was minimalist, not distracting, very professional and we got a great sense of the surrounding and the way these children lived, but walks outside and uncommon places like the bunker could have focused a bit more on the look. There's some directors who just need to make sure that the actor's expressions are clear. I like more versatility in my films. It's a medium of visual art. Make it more art, you know?
Script: Funny, serious, awkward, extremely emotional, like the life of a child, with several conversations on study, or interpersonal relationships, on the present and a touch of future dreams, and a lot of moralising. The realism of students at a boarding school talking about class and what they're learning, well isn't that the point? There's no blatant paragraphs designed to let us know where the plot is coming from or where it's going, it's more honest, more real, less leading by the nose. In short, less Hollywood.
Plot: This is about children dealing with very adult situations. Typically, a story about children in a boarding school, not to mention with priests as the even MORE severe authority figure, you expect the social dynamic to be a lot of "Underdog versus the Man", but this story does nothing like that. Everyone in this is human, the teachers aren't monsters (rather they're often catalysts and the voices of reason, humility and ethic), they're genuinely interested in molding the minds of the young in a positive manner. You may have heard of this movie before, and if so you know it's not a happy story, but for those of you who don't, it's really one of the better stories of it's genre, not all graphic and large scale tragic.
Mood: Every time some little slight happens, the prepubescent boys spend their energy pummelling each other. Every sign of weakness is pointed out, every intellectually awkward moment is dismissed rather than investigated. Imagine a dramatic tale as handled by adults. Some real depth, some sentiment, maybe some intense drama. When taken over by children verging on adulthood, but not quite getting it, it makes the experience a truly unique one. Really special, and unfortunately, a story about children grow up all too fast.
Overall Rating: 82% (Not To Be Dismissed)
Aftertaste: Not a film that has burned itself into my mind, it is still one of those stories that make me realize one of two things: America is utterly retarded and film execs expects people to want film to be force-feed to them like pigs at a trough. Either that or I'm becoming a film snob. To be a nice little compromiser, I think I'll put myself somewhere in the middle. Why do we expect NOT to be treated, except in RARE occasions like Syriana, like people with brains who want to experience a film rather than spend life in front of a flashing screen? Officially, I now proclaim myself a greater fan of Europe's art than America's.