Monday, June 27, 2011


It almost slipped my mind that this was one of criterion's new releases. These days it seems like the criterion collection is focusing more on re-releasing a bunch of titles many of us buyers already own, except THIS time around they're on blu-ray. Sorry, but that's hardly anything to get excited about. However, the criterion collection's release of Louis Malle's 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' IS something to get excited about. Louis Malle is no stranger to working with children. He always seems to get great performances out his young actors (Murmur of the heart, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Black Moon, etc). In my opinion, Malle's most iconic child performance would have to be from 10 year old Catherine Demongeot who played the precocious title character in 'Zazie DansLe Metro'. Its almost a shame she never went on to become an adult actress. Her debut performance in 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' was fearless. She seemed to have a natural acting ability that went way beyond just being a cute child (which is something as we all know a lot of child actors get away with). Her performance in the film is more "tatum o'neal in paper moon" than it is an "Olsen twins/full house" performance. She has these facial expressions and mannerisms that you'd expect from an adult yet they don't seem forced or fake at all. What sets "Zazie" apart from her peers like; Antoine Doinel ('400 Blows'), Suzanne ('A Nos Amours'), Francois (The Naked Childhood) or pretty much the entire cast of Truffaut's 'Small Change' is that even at her young age (10), she seems to have the whole world figured out, whereas the other characters previously mentioned have some growing to do. Zazie seems like an adult trapped in a kids body. Furthermore, she doesn't seem to let her dysfunctional family life (which pretty much consists of a careless mother) get to her. She has more than the average energy and curiosity of a typical 10 year old, the spunk and know-how of an old lady and the language of a young adult (although sometimes its obvious she's just repeating words and phrases that she's heard adults say).
'Zazie Dans Le Metro' not only draws comparison to the french films I've already mentioned, but it also has a strong connection to 'Mon Oncle'. Both films not only have the same playfulness and quirky/surreal humor as one another, but they both revolve around the relationship between a child and their uncle. In the film, Zazie's mother dumps her off with her cross-dressing uncle for 2 days, while she goes off to spend time with her new boyfriend. Instead of letting the fact that her mother has dumped her off her with an uncle she's never met before get her down, she makes the best of it by ditching him and going off on her own adventure through Paris. She has a fascination with trains, and desperately wants to ride the subway, but there's currently a strike going on so she has to find other modes of transportation through Paris. In Zazie's short time in the city, we see her steal, climb the Eiffel tower, run alongside building roof tops, and pretty much play a big game of hide & seek through Paris with all the different adults she crosses paths with.

Both adults and little kids can enjoy this. Naturally a child will relate to the title character, and enjoy watching her get in & out of trouble with her iconic and easy to spot bright red sweater reminiscent of "where's waldo?", while adults will appreciate some of the more grown-up themes in the film which would probably go over a child's head. This is one of Malle's more experimental films. Many times, the camera speed goes from normal to fast, similar to the Benny Hill montages when he's being chased around (and please understand that that's the ONLY comparison the film has to Benny Hill. 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' is much better and funnier). Also, when you watch this, you can clearly see where a director like Michel Gondry may have gotten inspiration for stuff like 'The Science Of Sleep' and 'Human Nature'. Its more and more difficult to find movies for little kids to watch outside of pixar & disney. I wouldn't recommend this for a 4 or 5 year old, but id try 'Zazie Dans Le Metro' out on kid that's 9 years old or older.

and be sure to check out these classic french films in the similar vein of Zazie if you havent. The vibe is a bit more serious in these films (although 'Small Change' has plenty of humor), but they all fall under the same family.


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