Sunday, 18 February 2018

L'Enfance Nue | Maurice Pialat, 1968

A young boy, Francois, is passed around foster homes. His mother, never shown on screen, doesn’t want him, but doesn’t want to let go of him either. There’s no permanence to his life, no security. He’s, in their words, treated fairly by his foster family. His foster sister sleeps in a newly-decorated room on her own. “Whatever she dreams at night she can see in the day.” He sleeps in a fold up bed on the landing. He drops the family cat from the top of a staircase to impress a group of kids but tries to nurse it back to health in secret. He steals. “He’s not like other children. You can’t tell what’s on his mind”. He buys his foster mother a gift to say goodbye. “Take him away.” They do.

A new home with new walls. Thick, garish paint forces colour into the rooms but nothing sits well together. A blue wall and a yellow door, floral wallpaper and yellow tiles. Forced life. He now lives with an old lady and her husband, married too late in life to have children of their own so they foster instead. They’re kind and strict and fair. But they know there can be no longevity to this relationship, and Francois is doomed to move on again. He tries to make friends with boys at school by doing what they do: smoking, fighting, throwing bricks from bridges onto roads. They tolerate him. He’s the slowest runner, the fall guy, quickly abandoned by the herd. Invisible and alone, he tries too hard to make people see him: kicking holes in doors, causing a car accident, killing the family cat. But seeing isn’t the same as loving. He’s a yellow door in a blue room. You always know where the exit is because it’s the one thing that doesn’t fit.

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