Pialat's portrait of youth in turmoil is a naturalistic and intelligent deployment of empathy. Makes you squirm in horror and love and that same time. Better than the 400 Blows, but that's coming from someone who thinks Les Deux Anglaises & L'enfant sauvage are Truffaut's best
Le Nord, les terrils, les "pupilles", la mémère et le pépère... Une histoire individuelle dans la grande Histoire, celle du Nord de la France dans les années 60, après la guerre et les mines (de charbon). Des gosses un peu paumés et un système qui fait ce qu'il peut. On sent à peine la caméra tant les personnages sonnent vrai - brut. Belle découverte.
Sober and raw social realism heavily reminiscent of Ken Loach's gritty films. Francois is your classic troubled child, constantly moving in and out of foster homes, never failing to settle with a family. Pialat doesn't do sentimentality or grueling brutality, just a straightforward documentary like retelling. It's all just a bit drab and pointless - no moral, no real story and therefore nothing to cling on to.
François is a child clinging to any scrap of love he can put his hands on. But life is bitter and fate has ruled that he must struggle. For every rejection there is a rebellion, a quest for belonging and a silent scream for attention, a vicious circle he is unable to break away from. Pialat reclaims a type of socially conscientious cinema that is both subtle & raw and strikes a cord both emotionally & intellectually.
Following the French New Wave, Pialat's debut is more closely aligned to the gritty Northern Realism (or naturalism) of films from British directors such as Ken Loach. Thoughtful, concise, and interestingly edited, 'L'enfance Nue' is a lesser version of 'The 400 Blows'.
What social realism is all about. Pialat has no time for sentimentality; likewise, he avoids wallowing in grimness for its own sake. Instead we get direct social commentary built into the texture of mundane narrative. Pialat's eye for the truth of the everyday is astonishing. It's better, in my, view than 400 Blows and has the warmth of My Life as a Dog. Taut, unflinching, just, and humane.