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aka - Goodbye, Children
France 1987
Directed by
Louis Malle
104 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Au Revoir Les Enfants

Louis Malle, who also wrote this film about the experiences of a rather gauche young boy, Julien Quentin (Gaspard Manesse), at a boarding school in Occupied France based it on his own childhood experiences. Whilst it is held in high regard in many critical quarters and there is no denying the sincerity of the director’s commitment to the project I have never found the film particularly convincing.

Although a carefully detailed production it is perhaps a little too handsome, particularly in the case of Manesse and the lad, played by Raphael Fejto, with whom he forms a friendship. The film has an over-packaged look (the students are supposed to be cold and underfed but appear nothing like it) that Malle’s highly sentimentalised treatment (take for example the spontaneous boogie-woogie jam between the two boys) does nothing to dispel. Little goes on in the narrative which give us a surfeit of reiterative boarding school routine and beyond Julien and Jean, both bland creations, there are no characters to hold our attention, the director’s remorseful nostalgia and the general theme of innocence lost not being enough to sustain attention.




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