I Found It At the Movies: 2006—L’enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)


Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

2006: L’enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)

I saw La promesse and Rosetta in theaters when they first came out and was lukewarm on both. I then ignored the next ten years’ worth of Dardenne releases. But finally, after some prodding and encouragement from friends, I caught up with L’enfant (The Child), The Son and Lorna’s Silence. I tell you all this to explain how I’ve done a complete about-face on these directors and now consider their body of work one of the most interesting things going. I haven’t gone back and revisited their earlier work yet, but I assume I would have a much more favorable reaction to it now.

More than anything, I respect that the Dardennes, like Abbas Kiarostami and Hou Hsiao-hsien, have a real formal system guiding their work. It’s conceived with great thought and then executed with laser precision. The three later films I mention above all feel very Bressonian to me, though I can’t concede quite yet that the Dardennes’ heights of transcendence are on the same level as the great French director.

Still, I greatly admire the level of restraint the Dardennes exhibit throughout their work. I also respect the lively, real performances they are able to elicit; they came up making documentaries, and their ability to create a “real” fictional world is far superior to most.

For the moment, the brothers might be just a notch below Bresson, but the chase sequence in this one rivals, and maybe even surpasses, the great heist scene on the train in Pickpocket. I’m excited to see whatever they do from here. I truly think they’re among today’s masters.

What moviemakers can learn: A documentary background can sometimes provide an invaluable skill set for a moviemaker looking to transition at some point to making narrative features. The Dardennes are one of the great examples of this.

Other contenders for 2006: From this year I still have some things to see, including Abbas Kiarostami’s Roads of Kiarostami. I really like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others and Stephen Frears’ The Queen. I love Tsai Ming-liang’s I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone. And my closest runner-up is Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.

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