Poil de carotte (Julien Duvivier, France, 1932)

poil

An astonishing moment of melodrama in Duvivier’s Poile de carotte  (see below) where the eponymous hero, a young child,  rages against the conditions of his life: his mother hates and abuses him; his father is indifferent; his siblings are favoured. A family, he tells his father, should be made up of those one loves and those that love one. But that´s not his own situation. Whilst he watches everyone else give and receive love, he alone seems exempt, alone in the world and raging. It’s an extraordinary moment of child rage followed by an equally extraordinary dramatisation of child abuse on film that is depicted as  both physical and psychic.

 

 

The rest of the film will show how a child is driven to suicide and how that suicide is avoided. I don´t hink I´ve ever seen anything like it on film., particularly since its darkness is layered over with the picaresque, thus rendering it amusing and likeable. It´s an incredible achievement of tone, beautifully visualised by Duvivier, with lyrical dream sequences where the child´s inner self eggs him on to off himself.  A powerful film in spite of some weaknesses in the performances by the children and the mother (Robert Lynen, Simone Aubry). Still the great Harry Baur plays the father and is a joy to see.

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