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Maurice Pialat's masterful feature debut follows in the hallowed tradition of Truffaut's The 400 Blows with its raw, intense portrait of a troubled adolescent shunted through a series of foster homes.
The cinema rarely rises to such heights of eloquence and feeling: "one of the most remarkably self-contained and obdurate debuts in cinema history" (Phillip Lopate), L'Enfance nue follows in the hallowed tradition of Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Vigo's Zéro de conduite. (Indeed, it was made thanks to the support of Truffaut and won the Prix Vigo as the best debut of the year.) Using a largely non-professional cast, Pialat tells the story of a ten-year-old boy (Michel Terrazon) who, abandoned by his mother, is shunted from foster home to foster home until he ends up with an elderly couple. He is finally able to form an attachment with an eccentric grandmother (the astonishing Marie Marc), who for a moment makes his life bearable. Dispassionate but never detached, the film announced the tone and style for which Pialat became known: austere, intense, even raw, but eloquent and coursing with undercurrents of unspoken emotion. "Wonderfully delicate... a film in which nuance is everything... The performances are stunning" (Time Out Film Guide).