Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2005 4:04 pm 
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A New York Film Festival selection. A Sony Pictures Classics release. US limited release scheduled for March 2006.

Another powerul Dardennes story of the downtrodden

The Dardennes, who won their second Palme d"Or at Cannes this year with L'Enfant (The Child), describe it as "a love story that is also the story of a father." Twenty-year-old Bruno ( Jérémie Renier) is a petty thief and scam artist in Seraing, an east Belgian steel town, who lives off his girlfriend's welfare and impulsively spends whatever he steals. When eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah François) returns after the birth of thier son Jimmy, Bruno's far worse than merely unready to accept the responsiblity of fatherhood. Unbeknownst to Sonia, he decides to sell the baby on the black market. The film is about what happens following this grotesquely ill-advised decision.

L'Enfant is urgent with movement and has little talk. As with the 1996 La promesse (The Promise, 1996), where Jérémie Renier debuted, Rosetta (1999), and Le Fils (The Son, 2003), the action is ceaseless and obsessive and seems almost real-time. But the Dardennes make every minute count. In those rare moments when the hyper-kenetic Bruno is momentarily still and the camera looks into his face, there's a strong sense of the doubt that will lead to his transformation. When Bruno tells Sonia "I'm sorry," or "I need you" and "I love you" the words carry weight because he doesn't normally ever say such things. But Sonia says, "You lie as you breathe." L'Enfant is as powerful and accomplished as anything the Dardennes have done, and as thought-provoking.

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