Playing for an exclusive one-week run at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles beginning Friday, August 28 is French director Rene Clement’s award-winning “Forbidden Games.” Celebrating a stunning new digital presentation with new translation and subtitles, this French classic is “a must” for film buffs.
“Forbidden Games” swept all the major international awards in 1952 winning:
- Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival
- Independent Grand Prix Award at Cannes
- New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Foreign Film
- National Board of Review’s Top Foreign Film Award
- BAFTA Best Film Award (1954)
It’s no wonder—the film chronicles war through the innocent eyes of children, with performances that still hold up today.
Opening in June 1940, Parisians are frantically fleeing the city during the German blitzkrieg. Many citizens were bombed or shot down, including the parents and puppy of five-year-old Paulette (an amazing Brigitte Fossey). Clinging to her dead dog, orphaned Paulette wanders the countryside until she meets young farmboy Michel (an equally strong Georges Poujouly). Michel takes Paulette under his wing and convinces his parents to take her in.
Death is everywhere, from those killed on the bridge to Michel’s older brother who dies from being kicked in the stomach by a spooked warhorse. Against this chaotic world, the two youngsters form a mature bond that includes a fixation on death and burials. Paulette wishes to protect her dead dog from the rain and therefore wants to bury him. This is something she can give her dog, but couldn’t with her deceased parents. Ever helpful, Michel creates a little cemetery for her dog in an abandoned mill.
Paulette demands other dead animals and insects be brought to the cemetery so her dog won’t be lonely. Michel complies. He makes and then steals crosses to create a proper burial ground to please the demanding Paulette.
The children’s solemn fixation on death is set against the warring (and absurd) squabbles between Michel’s family, the Dolles, and neighboring Gouards. The adults’ constant bickering and one-upmanship is childlike, and one begins to wonder who are the children and who are the adults?
There are so many levels in which to view this film, which at first glance may seem simplistic. But director Clement makes us “observe” the layers of human behavior against the backdrop of war, death, greed, religion, etc. Although these children play their morbid, “forbidden” games, which coolly look at death, Clement doesn’t load his actors with those awkward moments of sentimentality (except maybe for the painful last shot).
Heralded as two of the finest young actor performances in film history and directed by a skilled director who would go on to direct, “Purple Noon” (1960) and “Is Paris Burning?” (1966), “Forbidden Games” is a piece of cinema history worth seeking out.
“Forbidden Games” is 86 minutes, in French (with English Subtitles) and opens August 28 at the Nuart Theatre.