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

Les Enfants terribles (The Strange Ones) Reviews

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June 29, 2016
Petulant spirits give way to a swirling pseudo-tragedy in this lyrical adaptation of Jean Cocteau's surrealist novella.
Director Jean-Pierre Melville breathes fear into a frivolous, fleeting story, and ensures it aptly descends into a semi-Shakespearian game of hearts.
Nicole Stephane is superb as scheming sister, Elisabeth, but it's Melville's musings - both visual and lyrical - which turn Cocteau's ambiguous tale into an tangible event. Infantile hearts die hard.
½ December 12, 2015
It's surprising how dull Les Enfants Terribles is given the talent involved, the central story of jealousy and loss uninteresting due to the fact that so much time is devoted to other elements of the plot. It's nice that Paul has a crush on a boy at one point, as this wasn't a widely acceptable notion to portray in film in 1950, but that development doesn't really yield anything compelling as the boy leaves within the first twenty minutes so that a woman who looks like him can show up and steal his heart in a more "acceptable" way. Cocteau's style is occasionally evident through his collaboration with Melville, but its nowhere near enough to save a central narrative that doesn't offer-up anything worth investing in.
Super Reviewer
December 11, 2013
"Les Enfants Terribles" starts with boys with being boys, but maybe too much as Paul(Edouard Dermithe) is injured by an errant throw in a snowball fight lobbed by Dargelos(Renee Cosima). While Dargelos is expelled, it is not for that but for a run-in with the headmaster(Jean-Marie Robain). As far as Paul goes, the family doctor(Maurice Revel) says he will be okay with some rest, which leaves his sister Elisabeth(Nicole Stephane) to take care of him along with their invalid mother(Maria Cyliakus). When she dies, their friend Gerard(Jacques Bernard) takes them on a holiday to the sea.

"Les Enfants Terribles" is a darkly entertaining tale of family tragedy and how family while comforting can also be the worst of traps at times. So while the movie has one eye on the past, it also has another one on the future, as these young people have already had more than their share of experience with death. That not only the involves the complicated feelings the characters have for each other that they have a hard time expressing despite all the words but also the movie's anticipating the French New Wave in its character structure and linking narration.
½ November 14, 2012
Synopsis: After teenager Paul is injured in a schoolyard fight and ordered to bed rest, his doting sister, Elisabeth, assumes the lead role in his care. But when Elisabeth takes on a boarder who strongly resembles Paul's boyhood crush, the siblings' close relationship is threatened.

Sometimes an older film can be dumb-foundingly over my head. The cultural period in which the film was made has changed so much that the ideas behind the decisions made during production are severely obscured. The result is a picture that is not only out of it's time, but also hard to read.

Les Enfants Terrible is a perfect example of such a phenomenon. So many questions were floating around in my head that shouldn't have been. Questions such as "is he gay?'', and "is there a strong sexual tension between these characters or is that just me?" as well as "is such acting behavior normal for the 50's" . In fact, i was half expecting the picture to turn into some kind of art-house ghost story because of my unresolved questions.

As it turns out the actual intended story is little more than ridiculously contrived love triangle with certain details added in for controversy as an excuse to call the picture a avante-garde work.

Though the picture has some nice moments of ethereal surrealism. Once the smoke cleared, disappointment set in.
August 3, 2012
Another KVIFF viewing of Jean-Pierre Melville‚(TM)s tribute section, after LE SAMOURAI (1967, a 9/10). This one is Melville‚(TM)s earlier work, a collaboration with Jean Cocteau, an adaption of Cocteau‚(TM)s internationally famed eponymous novel, which at first glance would seem to be deviated from Melville‚(TM)s comfort zone, the film has a more explicit portrayal of humanity in its darkest corner, and the fodder has a comprehensive penchant to theatricality and character study.

A quite conspicuous clash comes from the cast, to wit Edouard Dermithe, the leading protagonist as Peter, who would not be Melville‚(TM)s first choice but thanks to Cocteau‚(TM)s relentless insistence (Edouard is said to be his lover at that time), notwithstanding his dandy contour is unable to deliver any conceivable conviction which his role should have embodied, no matter how many close-ups swooping upon his statuesque face, it is certainly beyond the rescue even Melville had exerted himself to the upmost. Nicole St√ (C)phane and Ren√ (C)e Cosima, on the other hand, are the messiahs of the cast, several emotion-eruption takes are right to the point.

At least Melville still manifests his capacity is other department of the films, the cinematography from DP Henri Deca√ę infuses very seclude intimacy during the siblings‚(TM) scenes when a whiff of incestuous ambiguity permeates the whole frame. When the setting moves to the grand apartment in the latter part in the film, the spiderweb of deconstructing an immoral subterfuge foiled with riveting and labyrinthine shots culminates the film with a quite amazing coda, which by no means should be even scarcely credited for Mr. Dermithe.

So the win-win combo seems not to fire up to one‚(TM)s expectation, and it is a quite qualified candidate needs a remake, then who is the proper person at the helm? I dare to suggest Jacques Audiard if one must be French.
May 3, 2012
Mind blowing 70+ years old film in the avante garde tradition.
½ January 1, 2012
Fascinating and disturbing.
Super Reviewer
½ November 25, 2011
Jean-Pierre Melville may have directed "Les Enfants Terribles," but the film has little to do with the later crime pictures that form his main legacy. The true auteur here is Jean Cocteau. He adapted the screenplay from his own book. He narrates. A few visual tricks bear his stamp, such as a dream sequence with backward motion, a mustached bust who seems to smirk at the action and a trademark shot where one character "floats" forward while the rest of the scene blurs behind him. Even the artistic, fluffed-up hairstyles suggest Cocteau's typical screen heroes.

The story resembles a Shakespearian tragedy wherein all events feel more symbolic than realistic. Paul (Edouard Dermithe, whose career was almost nothing but Cocteau-related projects) and Elisabeth (Nicole Stephane) are same-aged siblings -- their characters seem about 17 years old. As the film opens, they have a sick mother and rely on a maid. Their relationship has a heavy incestuous undercurrent, and they sleep in the same room without concerns for modesty.

While Paul is at school, his friend Dargelos (Renee Cosima, masquerading as a boy) hits him in the chest with a snowball. Paul collapses, bleeding from the mouth. The snowball seemingly contained a rock but, even so, it doesn't make sense that Paul is so grievously injured. Perhaps Dargelos's betrayal was the true wound.

Paul is sent home to convalesce in bed, while Elisabeth tends to him. Here, we learn they're strangely fixated on what they call "the game." It is not well-explained, but apparently involves trying to top each other with harsh words and cruelty. Most of the film centers around their salty, self-involved interplay, and Elisabeth is such a loud, relentless shrew that many viewers may be turned off. Eventually, the pair's friends Gerard (Jacques Bernard) and Agathe (Cosima again, interestingly) become important figures in the psychological warfare. Elisabeth also marries a rich youth named Michael, who ensures that she and Paul can sustain their insular, pampered lifestyle. During the final act, the dialogue eerily echoes amid the giant halls of Michael's mansion -- which only adds to the film's dream-like atmosphere.

"Les Enfants Terrible" is consistently stylish and intriguing, and fans of Cocteau's Orpheus trilogy shouldn't overlook this less famous work. However, Cocteau is also responsible for the film's biggest flaw: His intrusive narration is grossly overused. Many quiet moments would be more evocative if the audience was left room for its own personal impressions.
½ September 26, 2011
loves a bitch , incest is worse. great lighting, dull pace. still one of the cruelest pics ever made, like nails on a chalkboard.
May 22, 2011
Easily one of the best movies I've ever seen. I didn't know Melville had it in him. I'd previously only ever seen his heist movies, and took him for a dude who could only do that. This dude can do fucking anything. One thing that's blatant as you watch this is that you're walking down a path many before you have walked. Wes Anderson, Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke, David Lynch, Bertolucci... it's obvious they saw this movie. And you can feel how deeply they were affected by it. If this movie doesn't affect you also, I don't know what to tell you. You're just not on the right wavelength. But this is a perfect. Fucking. Movie. And the most erotic film I've ever seen with no sex in it.
½ December 8, 2010
More of a Cocteau film (he wrote it and narrates) than a Melville one (although there are some stylish shots). A brother and sister have a weird infatuated relationship that sets them apart from other people -- indeed, when others threaten to breach the emotional bond, the sister (at least) acts to thwart them. Very stylized and seemingly stagebound (although not apparently based on a play), this might not be for all tastes.
½ July 23, 2010
July 2010 - This is am amazing movie. For the first half I was wondering how this crazy story with that strange narration and the theatrical actings can merge and make a good picture. But all of a sudden it was as if I was watching a Greek tragedy set in a modern stage. It is poetic in such an intrinsic way that could be done by one and only one person who is of course Jean Cocteau. Obviously Melville remains a technician in the service of the novel and the movie has not much to do with his later movies.
½ April 6, 2010
Extremely stylish film collaberation between Melville and Cocteau, the shots in this are breathtaking and the direction is top notch. The story is about a brother and sister duo that suffers the death of their mother and this is the beginning of thier strangely close relationship that results in incest and death. Very unique film probably had Cocteau's hands all over it and was a very early directing credit from Melville well before his gangster films.
½ January 7, 2010
I didn't realize that this wasn't directed by Cocteau until after I saw it. Definitely not great like Orphe or Beauty and the Beast.
November 7, 2009
It is one of the best movie adaptations of a book I've seen. It is also one of my favorite children's tales. Oh, and the book was written by Jean Cocteau, that should be enough of a reason to watch it.
November 3, 2009
I am often attracted to films that have heavy amounts of arguing. And the arguing in this film has real stage feeling. The dialog has such a strong back and forth nature, where each piece of dialog continues to build and build to a point where you can't help but smile because of the ridiculousness of what's being argued about.
½ October 4, 2009
beautifully photographed, and there's something intriguing about the mystery and madness of the scenario, but oh my god are the characters insufferable!
September 25, 2009
Directed by Melville, but it's got Cocteau's stamp all over it. His voice is unmistakable... both his literary voice (he wrote the novel) and his actual voice (he performs the narration). It even looks like a Cocteau film. I'm rather indifferent to Cocteau (I'm not even sure if I like La Belle et la Bete that much anymore) so I didn't get much out of it. I can't point to any particular flaws, but I didn't connect with it on any level. All I can say is: eh, it was okay.
September 8, 2009
Funny--I don't like Melville (too macho) and I don't like Cocteau (too precious) but together they find a happy compromise and create great art. The progenitor of the nouvelle vague psychological film, the film-in-a-room (you know what I mean, those films where three or four characters isolate themselves from the world and slowly implode both themselves and the room: Jules and Jim, Masculin Feminin, The Mother and the Whore, My Night at Maud's, The Dreamers, etc., etc.). Also, Nicole Stephane is absolutely marvelous, leading one to wonder why on earth she didn't become one of the great actresses of the next two decades. Melville mentions the influence of Welles in an interview (included in the booklet on the Criterion release), and yes, this is perhaps the sort of movie the master would have made had the studio system not clamped down so viciously upon his creative impulses. Indeed, this is a marvelous film, so much so that its existence cannot be explicated...
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.
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