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L'Enfant

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Great comments, Diane.

I don

Edited by Doug C

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Wow, good thread. LONG THREAD. I'm surprised thought that no one has talked about it since June since it was just released in the U.S.

I guess not being a film critic puts me in a small minority.

A few points:

-some were speculating as to why so many babies were used. In the Special Feature interview, the Dardennes report that it was because babies that young change appearance so quickly and they wanted the baby to continue looking newborn. For as much as we actually see its face though, and for as bulky/baggy as its winter jumper is, I think they would've been ok with a couple.

-also, I found the passiveness of the baby a little distracting. I realize the story was about Bruno and the baby was something of a McGuffin but just a tad more fussiness could have eliminated one of very few flaws (imho) in this film. Unlike Le Fils, which captivated me from the first moments, L'Enfant required a modicum of willed suspension of disbelief.

Diane said:

::I don

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[i'm hanging my head in shame and filled with self-loathing, having searched and searched for this thread and not found it because I spelled the title wrong. And then I posted my duplicate post in the wrong forum.]

Anyway.

This is what I wrote in the wrong place because I can't spell, and now it's boring and redundant. Enjoy!

It arrived in its little Neftlix envelope this week - watched it yesterday. I quite liked it, and it's actually my first intro to Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (though it looks like you all have been noticing them for some time). Ultimately, it felt like it would be right at home in the Dekalog. Maybe the Elevenolog? Perhaps a contender for future A&F 100 lists.

Aside from its redemptive qualities and the fact that it's a fine film, craftwise, I also appreciated that it was pretty clean and I could actually watch it with my mother if I wanted. (Is this true of other Dardenne movies, too? Sadly, this is usually not the case with French films. Of course, that could be because I seem keep finding myself accidentally at Catherine Breillat movies and then have to scrub my brain afterwards...)


Sara Zarr

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See! They're not even French! I have no idea what I'm talking about!

(I actually have seen a lot of French movies - especially around 1985-1995 - or I feel like I've seen a lot of French movies, because I remember a friend saying once, "Don't you ever see anything made in America?")

More thoughts after reading the thread:

:spoilers:

L'Enfent L'Enfant was so harrowing to watch in so many ways - on my blog I likened it to the old Popeye cartoons in which Swee'pea is crawling all over construction sites in constant near danger, but always comes out okay. So horrifying in so many ways, but there's this huge relief, too.

I thought it was fairly obvious from the beginning that "the child" of the title was Bruno. Not childlike (a word another poster used), but childish...his aversion to real work, his belief that they could just "have another one," the way he was playing around putting his footprint on the wall while waiting for someone to buy his baby, and even the fact that ultimately his best friend, the friend he was most loyal to, was a 14 year old boy (or however old he was).

I'd argue that the tears in the end are hopeful, if only in the way that recognizing one's miserable state is the first necessary step toward reformation. At the very least, he finally owned up to something he did and attempted to pay his debt to society (even if he could never pay his debt to Sonia), and went from child to man, with all the bitter baggage that brings with it.


Sara Zarr

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"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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My favorite diaper-changing scenes are the ones where people unfamiliar with babies-- usually Lothario types-- try to do it and they get the diaper backwards or sideways and then before they're able to get it secured a thin stream of urine shoots upward onto the Lothario's Armani suit. Those ones always get me.

I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that the eventual L'ENFANT DVD release will contain a deleted scene that pretty much matches that description.

Sorry to disappoint you Russ ut the DVD did not come with any such deleted scene.


...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Mike D'Angelo:

Even if you were to watch L'Enfant (The Child) with the sound turned off and the subtitles removed, you'd quickly realize that there's no conceivable way it could have been made in America. It's not that the characters come across as stereotypically European—neither Bruno (Jérémie Renier), the young, towheaded petty thief at its center, nor Sonia (Déborah François), his moon- and whey-faced girlfriend, spends any time sipping espressos in sidewalk cafés, both of them being too preoccupied with moment-to-moment survival. Nor does the small, dingy factory town of Seraing, where Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (La Promesse, Rosetta, The Son) invariably shoot, look all that different from, say, the crummier sections of Cleveland or Detroit. No, you can tell this has to be a foreign film because Bruno and Sofia have just had a baby together—a tiny, swaddling-clothed, plot-driving bundle of joy and avarice—and at movie's end you still barely have a clue what the critter even looks like. Not for the Dardennes the easy pathos of the gurgling reaction shot. Their infant remains a bundled abstraction, passed around from person to person as if it were one of Hitchcock's MacGuffins.

Which is entirely appropriate, because ...


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Here is a real treasure of an essay on Levinas as an interpretive lens for the Dardennes. Probably the best academic work I have seen on their filmmaking, but it builds to a particularly striking description of L'Enfant: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/7/5/43/htm

This is well worth the read for fans of the brothers D.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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15 minutes ago, M. Leary said:

Here is a real treasure of an essay on Levinas as an interpretive lens for the Dardennes. Probably the best academic work I have seen on their filmmaking, but it builds to a particularly striking description of L'Enfant: http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/7/5/43/htm

This is well worth the read for fans of the brothers D.

It should be acknowledged (as indeed John does in his notes) that this essay shows the influence of Doug Cummings, who wrote about Levinas's impact on the Dardennes in his seminal essay, "Responding to the Face of the Other." 

For those who got something out of this essay, I also recommend John's essay on Rohmer, "Cinematic Epiphanies: Eric Rohmer and the Transcendence of the Ordinary" in Volume 1 of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema. 

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I was pointed to John's work by my supervisor, Russ Kilbourn. I hadn't known about the Luc Dardenne/Levinas student/teacher connection before we started discussing this whole "post-secular" cinema stuff. Looking forward to reading this.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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These are all such great resources.

I do disagree kind of significantly with one thing posited by the essay I linked, as it banks a lot on the idea of the Dardenne's films being "post-secular" somehow. I have never found that to be a very helpful term, as historically these broad replacements of religious sensibilities with narrative explorations of contemporary moral concerns belong every bit as much to our "secular" era as well. (Provided we loosely use "secularity" and "modernity" as identical terms.)

And there is specifically nothing "post-secular" in a narrative sense about the Dardenne's films, as they all take place in a social and economic environment still determined by 20th century European politics. At the very least, using a term like "post-secular" is not helpful here, as it pertains to a different sort of argument about culture and public policy.

In this way, I kind of lump the Dardenne Bros., Dumont, and the Coens all in the same box as surfing on that steady wave of religious consciousness that abides in both modernity and post-modernity. They would have been making the same films in the 1940s-1960s, should that have been their location.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Well, I'm not sure that "post-secular" in the strict sense that Habermas uses it is very helpful, because it assumes that all countries go through similar narrative progressions through "secularization" in the wake of modernization. But that's simply not true. Habermas's project is ultimately a very European one.

I'm working through this notion of post-secular in other ways, as I say in my essay on Apichatpong for MOWC: Vol. 3. I see it as describing more what Capuana calls the untenable dichotomies of so-called secular societies.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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Educate me! Where should I start with Capuana? It sounds like my understanding of the term is pretty one-sided.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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