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Les Enfants Terribles (The Criterion Collection)

11 customer reviews

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(Jul 24, 2007)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Writer Jean Cocteau and director Jean-Pierre Melville joined forces for this elegant adaptation of Cocteau's immensely popular, wicked novel about the wholly unholy relationship between a teenage brother and sister. Elisabeth (Nicole Stephane) and Paul (Edouard Dermithe) close themselves off from the world and play an increasingly intense series of mind games with the people who dare enter their clandestine world - until romance and jealousy intrude. Melville's operatic camera movements and Cocteau's perverse poetic approach to character merge in this film to create one of Franch cinema's greatest, and most surprising, meetings of the minds. Henri Decae provides cinematography.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Nicole Stéphane, Edouard Dermithe, Renée Cosima, Jacques Bernard, Melvyn Martin
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Writers: Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean Cocteau
  • Producers: Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PKG6OY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,236 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Les Enfants Terribles (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on July 25, 2007
Format: DVD
During the first few minutes I thought Cocteau's Les Enfants Terribles seemed like an odd choice of novels to adapt for a director known for his low view of human nature but that is only because I was not all that familiar with Les Enfants Terribles. The title should have given me a clue but I realized as I watched that Cocteau also is very interested in exploring man's and woman's less seemly side. Furthermore, Melville's gritty noir sensibility is every bit as much on display here in this coming-of-age story as it is in the noir masterpieces that came later. In this adaptation of Cocteau's novel Melville ruminates about the insular world of a brother and sister whose precocious and despotic imaginations are destabilized only by uncertain desires. The two teen siblings are Paul, an ultra-sensitive student who is infatuated with another male student named Dargolos, and Lise, his sister, who has been forced to stay at home to care for their ailing mother. There is an obvious and deeply disturbing symbiotic bond between these two and the unwholesomeness of the bond is immediately apparent. Though they are young there is nothing youthful or innocent about either of them; in fact, much of the time, they seem to act like little blonde fascist versions of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton--as with Taylor and Burton for these two cruelty and seduction are indistinguishable. Just how depravedly selfish these two are, or might be (again, the extent of their depravity is never made explicit) might disgust some viewers. (If the incest topic makes you queasy you should probably stay away from this.Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eugenia on August 16, 2007
Format: DVD
Earlier this year, in the spring, Ms. Nicole Stephane main female character of this movie has passed away. What better way to pay tribute to the acress, but to revisit this old classic movie based on Jean Coctoeau's book that was directed by famous French director Melville. Although I never read the book, I wanted to check out the movie with risque theme of incest.

I found movie fascinating, although some of the acting I found to be overdramatic and certain actors miscast. But the idea of the movie and deep tragedy of the situation between brother and sister, kept me at the edge of my seat until the end.

If you watch this movie, you must see the documentary commentary about making of the movie. Drama did not start and end with the story presented in this classic, but it is the drama behind the camera that was unnerving all along. Save time to watch this brief commentary because it will give you some great insight about the complex relationship between actors, director and writer during the creative process.

I could not stop thinking about another movie with the similar theme : "The Cement Garden" made from Ian McEwan's book. While the idea of the incest is common for both of these works of art, the characters in "The Cemenet Garden" are much better casted and developed. In any case, watching this movie will be time well spent.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chris Swanson VINE VOICE on August 25, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Les Enfants Terrible" is a collaboration between one of France's greatest authors, Jean Cocteau, and one of its greatest directors, Jean-Pierre Mellville. It should be, and according to many, is, a superb, excellent film. But to me there was something... missing. I don't know what.

The plot of the movie centers around a brother and sister who have an unusually close relationship. It's not made clear in the movie if it's an incestual relationship, but the overtones are certainly there (indeed, when they make references to the "games" they play, one can easily substitute the word "sex", and remove all doubt).

Both children, apparently around sixteen, spend a great deal of time isolated in the room they share, and woe betide anyone who invades their sanctum. All is reasonably well until the sister marries a wealthy man, who soon dies, giving her, her brother and their friends a large house to live in.

From a technical standpoint a lot to admire in this film. There's a great deal of poetry in the visuals, some wonderful acting, and some powerful dialogue. But for me, as I said, something was missing. I'm not sure what it was. I SHOULD have liked this movie more than I did. Perhaps on subsequent viewings, I will like it more.

For now, though, it gets three stars. But at least it's a SOLID three stars, and I certainly don't feel as though I wasted my money by buying it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Under Jean-Pierre Melville's direction, Jean Cocteau offers to us his adaptation of "Les Enfants Terribles" (The Terrible Children), a popular French novel he wrote and published in the 1920s. The story of two teenagers, Paul and Elizabeth, and the mind games they play as brother and sister since the death of their father and, eventually, of their mother. Games that ironically reflect their parents' troubled marriage, but also allows them to escape a cruel reality. Though their playground dives into a path of no return as certain actions and people appear in the story and truths are revealed. A plotline I wouldn't want to reveal more, but which I consider a classic of French cinema. Not an incest story as some people have said, but instead, as Cocteau explained during a documentary available on the Criterion release of Orpheus, a story between two family members who shut themselves from the world and get together into their family cocoon. Their universe.

Of this movie collaboration between two talented filmmakers came an important question. Are we dealing with a Jean Cocteau movie or a Jean-Pierre Melville work? In a "credits" sense, this is a Jean-Pierre Melville film. But as many film viewers know of Cocteau's influence on the script, the dialogues, the set designs, a cinematography, and an editing work more frenetic and much closer to Hitchcock, many have felt this movie as Cocteau's work. It is even a debate that comes up in the Special features of this DVD as Experts discuss during an exhibition of Cocteau in Paris, while friends and collaborators of Cocteau try to answer that question. Among them, one of the producer even said that Melville almost renounced that movie. But personally, I think this movie is a collaborative partnership.
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