(aka 'The Strange Ones')

directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
France 1951

Writer Jean Cocteau and director Jean-Pierre Melville joined forces for this elegant adaptation of Cocteau’s immensely popular, wicked novel about the wholly unholy relationship between a brother and sister. Elisabeth (a remarkable Nicole Stéphane) and Paul (Edouard Dermithe) close themselves off from the world by playing an increasingly intense series of mind games with the people who dare enter their lair—until romance and jealousy intrude. Melville’s operatic camera movements and Cocteau’s perverse, poetic approach to character merge in Les enfants terribles to create one of French cinema's greatest, and most surprising, meetings of the minds.

***

Elisabeth is extremely protective of her younger brother Paul, who was unusually injured when snow at school strikes him in the chest. He becomes house-bound at Doctor's orders. The brother and sister become inseparable, especially since their mother passes away. It is just the two of them now.. and they share a very strange relationship. Paul's friend Gerard often stays and travels with them. One day Elisabeth brings home Agathe to live with them also. She bears a strong resemblance to Dargelos (the boy who threw the snowball), whom Paul had a secret crush on. Paul and Agathe become attracted to each other, instilling jealousy in Elizabeth and firing the passions and hatred that the siblings were seething beneath the surface.

***********

Jean Cocteau selected Jean-Pierre Melville to direct the 1949 film version of his novel on the basis of Melville's only previous film, Le silence de la mer. Working closely with Cocteau, Melville developed a location-based style that eventually became one of the strongest influences on the directors of the New Wave generation. The story of Les enfants terribles is typically Cocteau: two adolescents (Nicole Stephane and Edouard Dhermitte), willfully cutting themselves off from the adult world, bind themselves together through a series of strange, enigmatic games--which end in incest and death.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr's comments at the Chicago Reader HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: July 1951

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DVD Comparison:

BFI -  Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

(BFI - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1- NTSC RIGHT)

DVD Box Cover

Distribution BFI - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 398- Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:41:57 (4% PAL speedup) 1:46:48
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.22 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.8 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

BFI

Bitrate:

 Criterion

Audio French (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono)  French (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono)
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Director Commentary by novelist and critic Gilbert Adair
• Interview with actress Nicole Stéphane - 12:33 (with removable English subtitles)

• 1 page (reverse cover) essay by Philip Kemp
• Original poster (see above)
• Director, writer and cast bios 


DVD Release Date: August 30th, 2004

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 19

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by writer, film critic, and journalist Gilbert Adair
• Interviews with producer Carole Weisweiller, actors Nicole Stéphane and Jacques Bernard, and assistant director Claude Pinoteau
• Around Jean Cocteau (2003), a short video by filmmaker Noel Simsolo discussing Cocteau and Melville's creative relationship
• Theatrical trailer
• Gallery of behind-the-scenes stills
• Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by critic Gary Indiana, a tribute by Stéphane, an excerpt from Rui Nogueira's Melville on Melville, and drawings by Cocteau

DVD Release Date: July 24th, 2004

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 19

Comments:

The BFI shows obvious contrast boosting next to the Criterion. The Criterion is sharper, with superior detail although it is again a pictureboxed transfer (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). The Criterion is obviously darker with richer black levels. Both have adequate mono French audio and optional English subtitles.

Both releases have supplements but, as expected, Criterion have added a few more. They share the excellent Gilbert Adair commentary where he even discusses such detail as Cocteau's preference for the speed of the dialogue, his poetic influence on the film narrative and the audio voice-over. It is very thorough and a fascinating listen but there are some fair gaps. Both also share the 12 minute, optionally English subtitled,  Nicole Stephane interview. Criterion adds Around Jean Cocteau (2003), a 17 minute video by filmmaker Noel Simsolo discussing Cocteau and Melville's creative relationship and poses questions as to who had more input on the film production, a theatrical trailer, a gallery of behind-the-scenes stills and a nicely appointed 30-page booklet featuring a new essay by critic Gary Indiana, a tribute by Nicole Staphane, an excerpt from Rui Nogueira's Melville on Melville, and many drawings by Cocteau. 

Gary W. Tooze


Recommended Reading in French Cinema (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

The Films in My Life
by Francois Truffaut, Leonard Mayhew

Agnes Varda by Alison Smith Godard on Godard : Critical Writings by Jean-Luc Godard Robert Bresson (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs, No. 2)
by James Quandt
The Art of Cinema by Jean Cocteau French New Wave
by Jean Douchet, Robert Bonnono, Cedric Anger, Robert Bononno
French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present
by Remi Fournier Lanzoni

Check out more in "The Library"


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DVD Box Cover

Distribution BFI - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 398- Region 1 - NTSC


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