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FORBIDDEN GAMES (Jeux interdits) (director/writer: René Clément; screenwriters: Jean Aurenche/Pierre Bost/based on the novel Les Jeux Inconnus by Francois Boyer; cinematographer: Robert Juillard; editor: Roger Dwyre; music: Narciso Yepes; cast: Brigitte Fossey (Paulette), Georges Poujouly (Michel Dolle), Lucien Hubert (Dolle, the Father), Suzanne Courtal (Mme Dolle), Jacques Marin (Georges Dolle), Laurence Badie (Berthe Dolle), Louis Sainteve (The Priest), André Wasley (Gouard–The Father), Denise Pereonne (Jeanne Gouard); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Dorfmann; Embassy Home Entertainment; 1952-France-in French with English subtitles)
“The film has lost its initial power over time and now looks too contrived to be a masterpiece.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

René Clément (“Is Paris Burning?”/”The Day and the Hour “/”Purple Noon”) directs a touching timeless straightforward humanistic anti-war tale told through the eyes of two children coping with war and death. It’s based on the novel Les Jeux Inconnus by Francois Boyer and written by Clément, Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, who keep it as a simple but affecting allegory. The film has lost its initial power over time and now looks too contrived to be a masterpiece, but still has artful lyrical touches. At one time it was rated right up there with Renoir’s Grand Illusion (1937), as one of the outstanding French films about war and its emotional toll. It clearly shows how rich a child’s fantasy is and how unreasonably restrictive adults can be.

During the summer blitzkrieg of 1940, five-year-old Paulette (Brigitte Fossey, after performing at age 10 in Gene Kelly’s The Happy Road-1957, she studied philosophy in Paris and eventually returned to cinema as a young adult in the sixties and seventies in films such as The Wanderer-1967 and The Man Who Loved Women-1977) seeks shelter with a poor rural French farming family, the Dolles, after her Parisian parents and pet dog are killed by German planes strafing the countryside. The 11-year-old Michel Dolle (Georges Poujouly, discovered in a camp for deprived children) takes a liking to the pretty little orphan girl and takes her under his wing. The children devote themselves to making a game out of building a cemetery for animals and steal crosses from the local churchyard to carry out their mission, which leads to a spat with the Dolles’ embittered neighbors, the Gouards.

The beauty is in the natural performances from the ensemble cast, especially from the two adorable kids. The film features two unforgettable sequences– the column of fleeing refugees strafed by Nazi planes and the final crane shot of the toddler amongst a horde of displaced persons.

It was not an instant hit in France, but when shown as an outside entry at the 1952 Cannes International Film Festival it received raves and soon became an international sensation. Many viewers said if it was an official entry in Cannes, it would have easily won first prize.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”