Sunday, June 29, 2014

Small Change

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut and Suzanne Schiffman, L’Argent de poche (Small Change) is the story about the life of a group of children who go through many antics through many different moments in the course of an entire school year. It’s a film that plays into the lives of children through many different events as they come of age through mischief and some serious moments. Starring Jean-Francois Stevenin and Virginie Thevenet. L’Argent de poche is a remarkable coming-of-age film from Francois Truffaut.

The film is a simple exploration about the life of a group of children in a small town as they go to school where their teachers often comment on their behaviors and the problems they face. Much of which is told in a very loose style from Francois Truffaut and co-writer Suzanne Schiffman in the course of an entire school year where children come of age. Throughout the course of the film, there’s stories about first-love, mischief involving botched haircuts and two brothers making money off of schemes, a teacher with a pregnant wife, and a new student who has been very secretive about the abuse he suffers at home. While much of the story is told in a humorous fashion, it does have some commentary about the way children act and how they deal with their situations. Even as they’re seen by adults such as parents and teacher who watch to see these activities as well as to try and relate to these children.

Truffaut’s direction is quite simple yet very lively as he aims for something that feels more realistic and loose in terms of the way he directs children as many of the people in the film are non-professional actors. Much of the direction is quite stylized but also full of whimsy and wonder where there’s scenes that goes beyond the idea of realism as it relates to a young baby named Gregory. Truffaut’s compositions are often engaging in the way he shoots the children and adults where he makes them feel like real characters as there’s no such thing as good or bad people with the exception of the family a boy named Julien (Philippe Goldmann) lives with as he secretly hides his abuse.

The tone of the film does become serious in its third act as it relates to Julien’s secret that includes this very engrossing monologue from a teacher (Jean-Francois Stevenin) to his students about their rights to have a good life as well as the injustice they would face as they come of age but with choices. Through Truffaut’s direction, it’s a moment that is very poignant without being overbearing. Overall, Truffaut crafts a very mesmerizing film about the year in the life of children in a small French town.

Cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as much of it is straightforward while it features some stylish lights for the scenes of Julien walking through a carnival as he watches kids having fun with their parents. Editors Yann Dedet and Martine Barraque-Curie do nice work with the editing as it is quite stylish with some jump-cuts as well as fade-outs to give the story some structure in its loose tone. Production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko does amazing work with the look of the classrooms as well as the apartment where many of the characters live in. Costume designer Monique Dury does wonderful work with the costumes as many of them play into the personality of the kids as they would often wear the same clothes. The sound work of Michel Laurent is terrific for the atmosphere that goes on at the school as well as the apartment and things that goes on outside of the school. The film’s music by Maurice Jaubert is superb for its playful orchestral score as well as some songs that plays into the situation of the characters as it adds to the film’s unique tone.

The film’s cast is brilliant as many of the performances add to the sense of realism and whimsy of the film as the standouts include Richard Golfier as a kid who gets a botched haircut, Sylvie Grezel as a young girl who uses her father’s megaphone, Bruno Staab as a teenager who tries to show a boy how to woo girls, Pascale Bruchon as a young girl who would write a letter to her cousin in the beginning of the film, Geory Desmouceaux as a boy named Patrick who endures his crush on a student’s mother and later encounter his first love, and Philippe Goldmann in a tremendous performance as the troubled boy Julien. The film’s superb adult cast includes notable performances from Chantal Mercier as a strict teacher, Nicole Felix as the mother of the baby Gregory, Tania Torrens as a boy’s mother that Patrick has a crush on, Virginie Thevenet as the schoolteacher’s pregnant wife, and Jean-Francois Stevenin in fantastic performance as the schoolteacher who gives the film’s famous monologue.

L’Argent de poche is an incredible film from Francois Truffaut. Not only is the film one of Truffaut’s most accessible and exuberant films of his career but also a very realistic and tender portrait about the lives of children. Especially as it’s told with such whimsy that it is a film that children could relate to as well as adults. In the end, L’Argent de poche is a phenomenal film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014


Brittani Burnham said...

Having just checked The 400 Blows off my Blind Spot, This film sounds like something I'd like to see! Great review!

thevoid99 said...

There was a month of films by Francois Truffaut that was on Turner Classic Movies last year which was the motivation to do an Auteurs piece on him. This and Fahrenheit 451 are the only films that the channel didn't show but I've managed to download it and I was pleasantly surprised as well as feel quite touched. This is one of his finest films as well as one of his most underrated.