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Au revoir les enfants (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.6 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This intensely personal film from Louis Malle (The Lovers, My Dinner with André) tells a heartbreaking story of friendship and devastating loss concerning two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening.

Special Features

Restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Renato Berta, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

Video interviews with biographer Pierre Billard and actress Candice Bergen, director Louis Malle’s widow

Joseph: A Character Study, a profile of the provocative character from Au revoir les enfants

The Immigrant, Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 short comedy, featured in the film

Audio excerpts from a 1988 AFI interview with Malle

Original theatrical trailer and teaser

PLUS: A book featuring essays by film critic Philip Kemp and historian Francis J. Murphy

Product Details

  • Actors: Gaspard Manesse, Francine Racette, Philippe Morier-Genoud, Stanislas Carre de Malberg
  • Directors: Louis Malle
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: March 15, 2011
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,270 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By VINE VOICE on April 21, 2006
Format: DVD
Louis Malle, one of the best directors to ever create film, gained his reputation through a series of semi-autobiographical films, films so heart-felt, so deeply emotional, so full of detail, they can't be anything but outstanding. "Au Revoir Les Enfants", recently released on DVD by the Criterion Collection, is my favorite of these films.

Julien (Gaspard Manesse) has a deep-felt affection for his mother (see Malle's "Murmur of the Heart" for more on this) but he understands he will be much safer at the French boarding school in the countryside. The school, run by priests, provides a safe haven for the children of well-off families during World War II. Returning from Christmas break, the new year is uneventful for a while. Julien is a bright student and the ring leader for a bunch of boys. Julien trades items with Joseph, a poor boy who works in the kitchen, more out of amusement than anything else, but also to supplement the meager diet served by the priests. One day, a new student arrives; Jean Bonnet (Raphael Fejto), a quiet boy the other kids make fun of: "Look at Easter Bonnet." Julien also begins to notice things about the new kid; he doesn't participate in the Catholic prayers the father's lead, he doesn't eat certain things, and one night, Julien wakes up to find Jean praying over some candles. Then, Julien's attitude changes and he forms an uneasy friendship with Jean.

Made in 1987, more than forty years after the events depicted, Julien is a thinly disguised autobiographical version of the director, as he lives a real life event from Malle's childhood. You might expect such a film to be filled with saccharin and sugar, full of fond reminiscences from his childhood. But the film is very astute at depicting the childhood as an observer might see it.
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Format: VHS Tape
This is a masterpiece of cinema, a work of genius by the late great Louis Malle. Would that we had another like him! As in Le souffle au coeur (1971) Malle (apparently) reprises part of his childhood for us, recalling everything with the barest touch, just the slightest emphasis, without rancor or any loading of the deck. He understates and plays fair always. He has complete control of his story as he gently guides the audience. He knows what they believe and what they expect. He respects that, but he doesn't cater, and he is very gentle about leading us to the conclusion. He makes it beautiful although it is horrible.

Gaspard Manesse as Julien and Raphael Fejto as Jean are unforgettable and a reminder that in film it's important to have a good cast. Yet, I suspect Malle could have made geniuses of any number of talented boys in their roles. This is your Catholic boys school coming of age film without lecherous priests or the brutality of children; that is, no more than is necessary, just what is real and seen in perspective, the context being the Nazi occupation of France in 1944. It is amazing how Malle manages to show the bestiality and brain dead stupidity of the Nazis by presenting them at their most gentle. If one can damn by faint praise, one can destroy by contrast. Compared to what is human and natural we see the Nazis, as their pretentious Reich is falling apart, chasing after children, obsessed with psychotic racist delusions. Through the objective eyes of the children we see the evil. Malle need only let the events speak for themselves.

I think artists working in any medium would benefit from a study of this film. (An excellent American film by Malle also worth study is the fascinating Atlantic City (1980) starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Au Revoir les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) is a French film of profound sadness. The story is about Julien Quentin, a young French boy who must attend school in the countryside because Paris is not safe due to WWII. The opening scene with Julien saying goodbye to his mother says a lot about Julien's character. He can be mean yet at the same time, he shows incredible love and friendship to those dearest to him. While at the school, he meets Jean Bonnet, a mysterious boy who Julien cannot help but be curious about.

The title of the film says much about the themes present. As the film progresses, 12-year-old Julien learns about the tragic things in life. Unlike most other boys his age, the events surrounding the film cause him to grow up earlier than he is comfortable with. Childhood is an incredibly fleeting thing and to many of the characters in the film, it is even more so.

The strongest part of the film was the acting by Gaspard Manesse (Julien) and Raphael Fejtö (Bonnet). Julien initially takes a dislike to Bonnet, but they begin spending more time with one another, learning that despite differences in each other, they are able to get along and form a friendship that touches both of their hearts. A tragic yet innocent mistake late in the film leads to a heart wrenching and unforgettable ending.

Au Revoir les Enfants is one of the best films I've seen. It is intelligent and deep in its message. For me, the message is that war affects children unnecessarily and cruelly. Like the title implies, children are forced to grow up too quickly because of war. I do not know about other viewers but for me, childhood was a happy yet brief time. For children affected by war and violence, it is even shorter, and this film perfectly embodies the tragic consequences that follow. I cannot recommend a film more intensely than this. See and judge it for yourself.
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