Les Enfants terribles (The Strange Ones) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Les Enfants terribles (The Strange Ones) Reviews

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August 2, 2009
I've never seen a Jean Cocteau film before, not even Beauty And The Beast, so I really can't tell the extent of his influence here, but what I do know is that in terms of style, this is probably the least "Melville" of Melville's films. Although not a bad movie at all, I much prefer the silent, purely visual, visceral and melancholic fare he produced later in his career than the slightly surreal and quirky for the sake of quirky style we get here. The overly poetic dialogue and narration (provided by Cocteau himself) are not my cup of tea. Melville's latter films are very poetic as well, but their poetry comes from visuals, not written word. Also, acting was all over the place and the characters annoyed me a bit, mainly at the beginning. I really don't buy Edouard Dermithe as a 16 year old wearing short shorts (but I guess he was actually supposed to look that ridiculous). Even though there's a lot of fat cluttering up the movie and details that don't quite work, the development of the siblings relationship is handled with care and the story goes some interesting places, specially during the last act. Some elements reminded me of Bertolucci's The Dreamers. The pace, the editing and general design are very clever, the work done by the art department is impressive and Melville's terrific eye for visuals is already here, even if working as a backup to dialogue and narration this time around.
July 9, 2009
Not exactly the psychological drama I thought it'd be. Interesting premise, well-filmed, but the story is just bleah.
½ May 17, 2009
A truly bizarre tragicomedey brought to beautiful fruition under the helm of Jean-Pierre Melville based on Jean Cocteau's novel (Cocteau also provides the narrative voice of the film). The film centers around the strange relationship between a brother and sister who share a bedroom they seldom leave but which they also populate with other lost individuals who cling to them despite their constant verbal abuse and psychological games. An exploration of the twisted side of human relationships: the feelings of jealousy and hatred, the need for an other to fill the lack in our being, clinginess, pettiness, and the manner in which all of this can mask a deep, underlying love that is buried under a mask upon mask of derision and abuse. Harrowing and hilarious, Melville's film will no doubt no appeal to the general masses, but fans of French cinema will no doubt be impressed by this minor gem.
½ April 27, 2009
The talents of these two Jeans could not be more divergent; J.P. Melville with his love of American culture, especially gangster potboilers, and Cocteau with his sentimental yet strange nostalgic visions. Put together, they made an occasionally engaging tale of two siblings with a vicious love-hate relationship, a story that is at times grating and obvious but distinguished by vivid mise-en-scene. Melville updates the novel, which took place mainly around the turn of the century, and puts it in the "modern day" of late-40s, post-occupation France.

Nicole Stephane, as the icy, dominating sister, gives an intense performance to offset the bland, innocuous presence of Edouard Dermithe as the brother with a weak heart, who nearly gets killed in a snowball fight in the semi-fantastical prologue. Cocteau's gender dissociation, carried over from the novel, forms the basis of the brother's lifelong quasi-relationship with his would-be "killer"; later on, the boy reappears, played by the same actress, as the beautiful friend of his sister. Most of the story deals with the sister's bizarre, unmotivated manipulations of her brother's "romance", testing the limits of his "weak heart". Glaringly obvious symbolism aside, Melville makes sure the story doesn't get bogged down in melodrama, keeping the pace nice and fluid.

"Les Enfants Terribles" is first and foremost a Melville joint; while he honors the original text, there are occasional digressions and stylistic decisions that're totally his. The sister falls in love with a rich Jewish fellow, who clogs narrow French country lanes with his gigantic Chevrolet sedan, later serenading the siblings with an Irving Berlin tune on his grand piano. When he bequeaths the mansion to them, they live in the massive parlor (watch out for the checkered floor!) and re-create the cramped living conditions of their formative years. Most every scene in the increasingly grim second half is lit like a noir, or perhaps a German expressionist horror film with its stylized, stage-like set. When the sister produces a .38 automatic at a dramatic high point, it's eerily similar to the climaxes of most of Melville's existential gangster epics.

With exquisite camera work and lighting, "Enfants" is always a joy to watch even if its moribund storyline reeks of Cocteau's personal hang-ups and obsessions. At least it's a pure fusion of methodologies, if not wholly satisfying.
April 20, 2009
Je sais pas pourquoi, ce film m'attirait depuis longtemps, mais je n'avais jamais pris la peine de le louer. C'était peut-être aussi bien comme ça, parce que j'ai été immensément déçu. C'est du Melville, c'est du Cocteau, on sait plus trop. Mais c'est plutôt du Cocteau. En fait ça se bagarre tout le long à savoir qui des deux artistes l'emportera...

En gros, c'est 1h45 d'engueulade puérile de deux enfants rois avec un accent énervant. Je n'y ai vu aucune "poésie", aucune finesse ou rien de ce dont les fans de Cocteau se réclament. Les personnages sont mous, creux, sans psychologie, à l'exception des deux protagonistes qui doivent être dans le panthéon des pires petites merdes de tous les temps.

Ça a beau être du Melville, ça a beau être du Cocteau, mais en tant que film, est-ce vraiment intéressant? En tous cas ce n'est pas ma tasse de thé. On peut bien reconnaître une certaine qualité de réalisation et deux ou trois scènes intéressantes, mais l'ensemble m'a paru plutôt plat, ou en tous cas loin de mériter toute l'attention qu'on lui donne.
sanjurosamurai
Super Reviewer
March 30, 2009
far from being one of melvilles better films, the film suffers from intolerable characters and a dull and pointless story through 3/4 of the film. thankfully melville did a lot with a little, redeeming the otherwise dull story with an interesting and tragic final act. the technical points also save the film with great direction, interesting camera angles, and great lighting choices, especially in the gallery scenes. overall somewhat disappointing but still very worthwhile, especially for melville fans.
March 22, 2009
Qué buena historia y qué mal casting. La narración hecha por Jean cocteau le da su estrellita extra.
January 30, 2009
Bizarre, twisted sibling relationship wreaks havoc on an isolated group of listless French youths.
December 4, 2008
Simply....a masterpiece
½ December 3, 2008
Third film by Melville, based on the Cocteau work from the end of the 20's. The collaboration between the director and the writer must have been extremel difficult, because of the need to combine two different and somehow "autoritharian" personalities, but the result is really worth viewing. Some parts are irresistible and remind of Cocteau great films. But for me here, the best is Nicole Stéphane, simply perfect.
December 1, 2008
Les Enfants Terribles was my first Cocteau film, soon (I hope) to be followed by Orphe. Though not technically a Cocteau film in its entirety, as it was directed by Melville, it is said that the influence Cocteau exerted over the film was not limited to mere script writing or narration; in fact, he played a major role in the casting process, and presumably added more than a few directorial touches to the film.

I have to say that from the very opening, the film gives the impression of a universe within a universe, at the same time integrated in and separated from the world we know. It?s not so much through the power of the two protagonists that we are transported into this special place, but through that of the magic spell weaved by the cinematography, with its deep shadows and silver sheens, and the music, with its undulating, hypnotic accords that seems bent on whisking you away to a place only known by them.

Back to the two protagonists, the two brothers living closely together, sharing a room and a world of their own, where the meaningless becomes meaningful and all worldly coordinates as the others perceive them are thrown off balance. The driving force of this universe is Elisabeth, she is the one who sets everything in motion and who magnetically draws everyone near, but the center of her world is her brother Paul. Together, the two form an impenetrable and, to outsiders, difficult to understand whole, to which though, the former are drawn in an overtly tragic manner. To the two siblings, everything is possible, not because it is made possible through a series of means, but simply because it is. Elisabeth is from the beginning, as revealed through both her actions on screen and narration, a favorite of the narrator. The adjectives used to describe her, the way she is portrayed set the scene to her becoming the perfect tragic heroine. She is proud, passionate, fearless, in opposition to her brother who is described as feeble, weak, effeminate, character traits which will, in the end, bring forth their downfall.

The film is riddled with beautiful sequences, some illustrating the playful childishness of the character, some dreamlike, eerie and almost magic, but throughout the whole film, even in the lightest of moments, the feeling that there is more than meets the eye is ever present.

The problems I had with the film consist mostly of some scenes and relationships which I felt were poorly developed. I read a review of the Ashes of Time Redux by Roger Ebert a while back, and in that review he was making the point (paraphrased very loosely here) that sometimes an author can get into the heads of their characters in such way that they lose focus of what they are or aren?t rendering on screen. I might be sorely mistaken but it somehow seemed to me that it was a bit the case here. Some of the scenes and relationships weren?t properly set up, and details were left to the voice over to be filled up. Now this could very well have been an attempt of centering the film on the two protagonists, but in a few instances, this happened in situations that were precisely trying to establish and illustrate reports from within the aforementioned universe of the two protagonists, so with that in mind, I have to stick to the idea that the film would have been better served by the better development of a few scenes.

Overall, a beautiful, tragic film, which I will most likely be thinking about for a while to come.
October 2, 2008
A bizarre and very self contained film, that didn't quite work for me because the central characters are horrible; selfish and delluded and without any connection it is hard to really care for the narrative of the film.
September 29, 2008
Chillingly beautiful.
August 31, 2008
A bit out of place. Worthwhile. Interesting acting and camera.
½ August 11, 2008
Features a sibling relationship thats as authentic as you will ever see in a movie. Very good work from Melville.
½ August 10, 2008
Features a sibling relationship thats as authentic as you will ever see in a movie. Very good work from Melville.
August 6, 2008
Camera operation was ahead of its time. Kinda twisted story of two siblings. Typical self indulgence stuff from Cocteau. Melville made the right decision to go to film noir after this.
July 25, 2008
A strange drama about childish jealousy and fantasy, I thought its plot was an uninteresting disaster. It gets bonus points for featuring a couple neat cinematic tricks (a neat backwards-animation shot and the final shot) and for including my favorite symbol of all-time (washing one's hands).
½ May 30, 2008
spoil children grown up.
May 15, 2008
Like Altman and Carver the combined geniuses in Short Cuts this film falls short of its amazingly high potential. Stephane is fabulous.
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