Jacques Doillon

French fry.

Ponette (1996) -- If the Peanuts comics featured French kids who weren't funny, had no sense of personal space, and who were trapped in even smaller, more claustrophobic boxes, that would begin to approximate the look and feel of this movie.  Ponette is a four-year-old whose mother has died and all she wants to do is be with her again, so she sets about figuring the mysteries of life and death, asking advice from anyone who is willing to give it (and everyone is).  Of course, she hears all the superstitions, religious beliefs, and practical advice you'd expect from people of various ages, none of them much doing her any good.  The idea of the movie points to our adult notions of what happens when you die, how we both believe them and don't at the same time, and how we're so willing to lie to children and ourselves in order to make everyone feel better.  The movie does a good job in exploring the magical, gullible, fuzzy, imaginative minds of small children, and every child actor (not just the star) does a good job.  The director getting down on the child's level also  means a movie full of extreme close-ups (for some reason) and the kids are always pawing at each other, eventually making the viewer (or at least me) feel like he needs to go outside for some breathing room after a while.  The movie hits the same note for an hour and a half, and it concludes with the usual ideas of "just live life" that are a bit of a letdown after such an interesting initial setup of the girl's genuine exploration, as if Doillon didn't have an adequate payoff for the premise he'd constructed.  We might feel just as cheated as Ponette initially did with the bullshit platitudes she received.  Most of these problems can be forgiven, however, for what still adds up to a unique movie. B

Copyright (c) Feb 2006 by Rusty Likes Movies