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aka - Forbidden Games
France 1952
Directed by
René Clément
87 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Jeux Interdits

René Clément’s much-admired film, based on a novel by François Boyer who also gets a script credit, tells the story of Paulette (Brigitte Fossey), a young girl whose parents are fleeing Paris with many others in the early stages of WWII. In the confusion her puppy runs off and Paulette chases after it and in turn her parents after her. Nazi fighter planes strafe the refugee convoy and Paulette’s dog and her parents are killed. Paulette retrieves the body of her dog after it is thrown into a river and finds herself alone in the countryside. Soon enough she encounters Michel Dollé (Georges Poujouly) whose family of poor farmers take in the orphan. The two children become fast friends bonding through their respective experiences of death.

Any film with a cute blonde 6 year old as its central character is likely to be sentimental and Clément certainly inclines in this direction but not in a bad way. The essential contrast between the misguidedly hostile world of adults, represented not just by Nazi aggression but the antagonistic relationship between the Dollés and their immediate neighbours, the Gouards, and the naiveté of childhood (albeit capable of its own cruelties) is a universal reality which never fails to reward contemplation. Jeux Interdits captures it in a tellingly simple form which is both humorous and sad.  

With classic 1950s black and white cinematography by Robert Juillard, nicely counterpointed by Narcisco Yepes’ guitar music Jeux Interdits is a poignant and beguilingly humanistic film that mercifully does not opt for a conventional happy ending,

FYI:  The film won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the BAFTA Best Film award and the Golden Lion at Venice although it did not do so well at Cannes, the French critics being unimpressed by Clément’s depiction of French peasantry. Apparently the puppy was given electric shocks to make it twitch. Hopefully that was the limit of the animal cruelty and that the dog we see being buried died of natural causes.




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