L’enfance nue (Maurice Pialat, 1968)
François is a ten years old boy who lives in a foster family. He doesn’t get along with his sister, he steals, he hurts her cat, and he misbehave in every way possible. Later he goes to a new family, the Thierrys. His new brother, Raoul loves them as if they were his real parents and he treats François as his own brother. His foster family loves him and takes care of him. François seems to get better but he has a penchant to get back to his old habits of bad child.
Much like its predecessors in Zero of Conduct or François Truffaut’s 400 Blows, Maurice Pialat based his story on the experience of the Thierry’s at fostering a difficult child. Another interesting fact, is that Truffaut was one of the producers of Pialat’s L’enfance nue. It is also obvious that Wes Anderson loves this film with the little brat boy who has problems fitting in the society. I also suspect that the Dardenne’s The Boy with a Bike was influenced by L’enfance nue. There are lots of improvisations from the non actors and natural moments of nurturing are quite easy to recognize for their genuine fit in the film. They kind of shine out while other more staged scenes are more flat and it creates a patchwork of scenes and strong moments.
As a first movie, Maurice Pialat’s L’enfance nue is pretty solid despite some uneven elements and some learning mistakes of a master to become. It is often stated that Pialat’s later work is much more interesting and enjoyable. This opens the door to many interesting titles like À nos amours, Van Gogh, Sous le soleil de Satan, and Loulou among the eleven feature films he has directed.
Since Pialat was a part of the blind spot directors I wanted to discover in 2013, I will be watching his other two films listed on the 1000 Greatest Films list of TSPDT during the current year : À nos amours and Van Gogh. The later, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen back as a child but I might be mistaken with another film on the great painter. That’s why I’ve listed Pialat as a blind spot director. Discovering a new director is like discovering a new voice, a new city, a new universe, and moreover a new storyteller. With only a film watched from Pialat I can already state that I like his voice and I will be digging in his entire filmography sooner or later.