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4.8 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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(May 26, 1998)
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Editorial Reviews


Live-action films about the very young are rare, and even more rare are such films that work as well as Ponette does, without cloying or pandering. The film stars 4-year old actress Victoire Thivisol as Ponette, who's lost her mother in a car accident. The rest of the film has her dealing with this loss, helped by relatives, but mostly by the other children she knows, and the help is sometimes heartening and sometimes hindering. The core events in the film are nearly all enacted by children, peers of Ponette. Sequenced as they are, they form what can only be termed the mythologies of childhood, using the contrast of childhood and death and the children's take on it to drive Ponette's changing attitudes. The result is seen passing across the face of Victoire Thivisol, one of the most luminous faces since Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Filmed cannily in close-ups, we're always privy to the artless emotions of the young girl. She's not old enough yet to have learned to dissemble. Her direct, unaffected performance (if that's what it is) draws us close in as few films have been able to do. If you're unaffected by this film, you might want to reconsider what kind of organism you'd like to be other than a human being. Victoire Thivisol was named Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival 1996. --Jim Gay

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Victoire Thivisol, Delphine Schiltz, Matiaz Bureau Caton, Léopoldine Serre, Marie Trintignant
  • Directors: Jacques Doillon
  • Writers: Jacques Doillon, Brune Compagnon
  • Producers: Alain Sarde, Christine Gozlan
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: May 26, 1998
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 1572522747
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,155 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Ponette" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 1, 2001
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Amazon asks us to rate the DVD, not the film, so here is my assessment. Anyone who is a fan of French film should stop buying DVDs produced by Fox Lorber. "Ponette" is produced by Fox Lorber, and once again the company has demonstrated it knows nothing about cinema as an art form and cares little about exploiting the inherent advantages of the DVD medium.
Originally shot in widescreen format, Fox Lorber has given us "Ponette" in reduced form (1.33 to 1). While many of the film's shots are close-ups, the reduced aspect ratio severely hampers the contrasting visual effect of the wide panoramic shots of the splendid lyonnais countryside.
In addition, Fox Lorber shortchanges foreign-film aficionados and language teachers by allowing no user control of the film's subtitles. Finally, this DVD lacks a chronometer (time remaining, time elapsed) for easy scene/shot retrieval. The "extras" Fox Lorber gives users are not worth mentioning, and were not worth the very tiny effort Fox Lorber made to include them.
In short, "Ponette" is a wonderful film that is definitely worth seeing (try renting it through Facets if your local video store doesn't carry it), but this Fox Lorber-produced DVD is definitely NOT worth spending your money on.
When Fox Lorber decides to start devoting care, effort, and money into its DVDs, then people should reward this through their purchases. Until then, as long as Fox Lorber gives us second-rate products, we should refuse to give them our money.
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Format: DVD
I'll skip the movie itself review. You can easily tell that it's a great movie by all the other reviews. What I'll focus on is the DVD itself. One point for it is that it has a menu. It goes down hill there as the DVD only has Stereo sound. This might be due to the original's lack of budget but I began to wonder when I see this classic movie is only pan and scan. Fox/Lorber has seen fit to put hard subtitles whether or not we can understand French. This is a DVD which could have been a lot better. It's a shame that we get such great movies done in substandard DVDs. Bowfinger is going to be 16:9, Widescreen, and Pan&Scan; plus DTS sound & lots of extras. Couldn't Fox/Lorber have done this movie with at least a widescreen version and removeable subtitles? Look at A Better Tomorrow to see how good a foriegn film can be put onto a DVD. It's really a shame to have the shoddy DVD for such a fine movie. And it could have been so much more.
Comment 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
I have agonized and agonized again over how to start a review of the French film "Ponette." Perhaps my difficulty stems from attempting to describe a film that falls outside my usual cinematic experiences. After all, a steady diet of slasher movies, out and out gorefests, and films dealing with the supernatural tend to erect certain barriers that can be daunting to circumnavigate. One should simply not look at "Ponette" in the same way one views "Friday the 13th" or "Dead Alive," and any attempt to do so does a grave disservice to this magnificent experience. And it is an experience, a film unlike any I have ever seen in my long career of cinema watching. I can't even remember now how I came to see this movie, whether I saw a review somewhere and thought it worth watching or whether a friend recommended the movie to me with the hope that I would abandon the world of cheap and cheesy horror flicks. Well, I haven't given up watching bad movies; I don't think anything could make me give up my nasty little hobby, not even a film as sublime as "Ponette." But this movie certainly gave me a different perspective, that's for sure.

When we first meet the adorable four year old Ponette (Victoire Thivisol), we quickly learn she has gone through a rough patch. She's in a car with her father, arm in a sling, heading out to her aunt's house for an indefinite stay. The conversation between Ponette her dad (Xavier Beauvois) is terse and upsetting: the girl's mother (Marie Trintignant) had an automobile accident with her daughter in the car. While Ponette escaped serious injury--aside from the broken arm--the prognosis for mom doesn't look so good. The accident is far more serious than we initially thought, so serious in fact that our young heroine soon learns her mother has died from her injuries.
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Format: DVD
There are some great films about kids--Kolya, My Life As A Dog, The Grand Highway, Forbidden Games--and even some of the Disney films aren't bad, such as the remake of Parent Trap. Not to mention the Our Gang series and the Shirley Temple films, many of which hold up remarkably well. But Ponette stands by itself, as you can probably tell from the other reviews here.
One film buff told me it's the first movie she's ever seen that made her cry. Now by "cry" I don't mean you'll be dabbing at your eyes with a Kleenex or two. You're going to need the whole box. Seeing it with a friend? Get a second box. It doesn't even need the element of surprise. I've only seen it once, two years ago, in a theatre. You know how at the end of a film everyone gets up, yakking about where to go for a bite to eat and whatnot? At the end of Ponette all you could hear was sniffling. Unique in my theatre-going experience. Even now I can't talk about it without tearing up.
But please don't avoid it because you're afraid it will make you too sad. Ponette may break your heart but you'll be a better person for it, and you'll thank Doillon and Thivisol and the rest of the cast and crew and distributors for it. It's the kind of film that inspires kindness, not moroseness. Ever after, when you feel the urge to do something mean-spirited, you'll see Ponette's face and that may well change your mind. If this sounds a over the top you just haven't seen this film. The original purpose of art was to inspire people to live up to their society's ideals, and do it in an entertaining, compelling way. This does that in spades. I've read some reviews that called it slow moving, pointless etc. I feel sorry for those reviewers. You will too.
I'm also writing Fox/Lorber to beg them to reissue this on DVD in letterbox. I can't believe they'd think the kind of people who'd buy a DVD of Ponette are the sort of yahoos who'd want a third of the image cut away.
--Lee Thé
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