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Les Enfants Terribles (The Criterion Collection) (1952)

Nicole Stéphane , Edouard Dermithe , Jean-Pierre Melville  |  NR |  DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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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: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000PKG6OY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,325 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Les Enfants Terribles (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

None.

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Depraved Seduction 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sibling play August 16, 2007
By Reader
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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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, and I don't know why... 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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4.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of movie-making, but a difficult film August 23, 2012
Format:DVD
Don't expect the old stable conventions of plot and coherent characterization in this film. Based on Cocteau's 1929 novel, Jean-Pierre Melville's film captures the surrealist spirit in which audiences are encouraged to reflect on different levels of reality, as well as consider their own role in the mise-en-scene. The cinematography is brilliant: some of the shot-compositions are truly memorable in their use of light and shade. Maybe you need to view the film twice, if not thrice, to appreciate its qualities.
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Format:DVD
It took time to build, but when things got really rolling, I felt things could not happen otherwise. The settings and actresses are truly fine. The musical score, simple and obsessive, is perfect for this almost naive plot of youth angst "avant la lettre". The final monologue of Elizabeth about "how we have to make our lives ugly, unlivable" is worth many bad French Literature we "ought to read".

While I cannot say it has any meaning, the "form" of this movie is so good one just forgets. I agree with Amazon's Tom Keogh that it may be "a harbinger of pop narcissism", I thought exactly the same. Some images are beautiful, like Liz moving in the garden with barren trees and a cloudy sky, prodding elegantly in a house that doesn't belong to her.

Doug Anderson on Amazon wrote a good summary and a great line: "the unwholesomeness of the bond is immediately apparent" "little blonde fascist versions of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton-". The thread he and another reviewer have is interesting. I pinch from there my end line: "In film the "how" is everything".
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