Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 1996)

My brother has a theory that no child can be a good, even "real" actor; they just don't have the life experience or the knowledge of human emotion to be believable on the big screen. While I generally agree with him, Ponette is the kind of exception that proves the rule. Four-year-old Victoire Thivisol portrays the title character, a girl who tries to come to terms with the reality that she has lost her mother, with such honesty and emotion that it's hard to believe it's not a documentary (although not surprisingly, Doillon's script was based on interview with real children of that age group about death and grief). Ponette's father is angrier than anything about her mother's death in a car accident (while Ponette was in the car), because she wasn't speeding, she knew the road, and she wasn't drunk. Nothing was wrong, but something went wrong. It's that kind of random accident that can make a person lose faith, and that's what happens to Ponette's father (played admirably by Xavier Beauvois). But Ponette, now living with her religious aunt and cousins, goes off with the cousins to a religious boarding school and at the tender age of four, faces her two family members' religious beliefs head on.

While that may seem unrealistic, Ponette just asks questions and absorbs information from those around her in just the way a small child would. She has such a hard time dealing with her mother's sudden disappearance from her life that she retreats into a fantasy land where she talks to her mother; once those around her tell her she's crazy, she turns to God but gets no immediate answer. A Jewish classmate gives her trials in order to become "a child of God" (they have power over God, she tells Ponette), she prays, she does everything those around her tell her to do, and in the end, she seems to get some sort of closure, but not based on any of that advice.

This movie isn't for those who are impatient (there are pacing problems), or who don't care to see a young child dealing with an existential crisis (I can understand that), but for those who are willing to deal with some genuinely heartbreaking moments (and the inevitable thought, at least for me, of "What if my mother dies?" which is absolutely devastating), Ponette is a beautiful little film starring a beautiful little girl.


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Comments on "Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 1996)"


Blogger math said ... (12:33 AM) : 

What I'd like is to ask a native French speaker how the movie is. I remember Thivisol's performance as one of the best by a child I'd ever seen, but occasionally wonder (when I think of child actors) if it's really that great, or if the language barrier ends up making the performance seem better than it is.


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