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Criterion Collection: 3 Films By Louis Malle [DVD] [1971] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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4 DVD Set

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 15 reviews
63 of 63 people found the following review helpful
wonderful, chilling films that are so un-Hollywood 23 Mar 2006
By Robert J. Crawford - Published on
Format: DVD
These are dark psychological films that examine seemingly normal people in the most unusual circumstances, from a vacation of sexual awakening to the choices that individuals made during WWII.

I was utterly rivetted by all three of these films when I saw them. Murmur of the Heart is about a boy and his mother, who have gone on vacation alone in the South of France. He is an intelligent if callow mama's boy and his mother, who is an extraordinary though aging beauty, is seeking something she can never quite grasp in her many extra-marital affairs. There is an aching sexual tension between them, a source of the kinds of secrets that take years to resolve on a psychiatrst's couch. It is a genuine masterpiece sure to generate controversy.

Lacombe Lucian is about a chamelion-like man who becomes a collaborator after being rejected by the French resistence (I reveal nothing here). It is about how sleaze, in the wrong circumstances, can flower into the greatest evil. Though it is the weakest of the bunch, it is still a 5-star piece of work.

The third film, Au Revoir les Enfants, is a poignant film about a friendship that grows across a cultural divide, jew v. catholic. The setting is a boarding school during the war, and the jewish boy is a fugitive from the German occupiers, who would send him to a concentration camp in an instant. Slowly, we watch the tension and fear grow, along with the love between the two boys, one of whom is playing with power in the most childish ways. I wept at the end of the film.

If anything could convince us capitalists (and I am one) that the "market" (i.e. Hollywood) does not always result in "optimal" results (i.e. what sells in mass distribution is "best"), we should watch these films: they are from a protected market and would never have been made by a machine such as Hollywood; they are lower budget, and do not asire to be blockbusters. Yet their quality is so high that they are a gift to art of the ages and will live on as some of the finest fictional work of the 20C in my humble opinion.

Warmly recommended.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Three of my favorite films finally on DVD! 19 Mar 2006
By Allan Brain - Published on
Format: DVD
I wrote a review of this release earlier, but it seems to have disappeared. Fortunately, these wonderful films have not. They've been among my favorites of all time for decades. "Murmur" is probably the best "coming of age" film ever made. It has everything from philosophical angst in the midst of petty shoplifting to, well, something no other "coming of age" film has. But despite the controversial nature of that part of the movie, this film was something of a sensation even when it played in the Midwest in the early '70s. It's funny as hell, but it is also very wise and in the best traditions of French films about life and love, including particularly family life. It will have you laughing and crying.

I don't think "Lucien" ever made it to VHS. It's also "coming of age" but in a different way. It's especially timely in these days of young kids getting caught up in military service

that they do not completely understand. Like "Au Revoir", it's set in the WWII period, whereas "Murmur" is set in the '50s.

"Au Revoir" is another great film with a different "coming of age" theme, like "Murmur" involving friendship and family and like "Lucien", also about choices. This is one of the most beautiful movies about friendship ever made. There are several scenes that will have you transfixed, including some, like the Charlie Chaplin excerpts, that are included in extras.

I haven't seen the extras yet, but as soon as I heard about this release, I pre-ordered it. These are sensational stories and unforgettable characters. Malle made a lot of films, but these are his best by far, and most of the critics, including the crankiest, agree that they have stood the test of time and are now classics of the cinema.

I waited back in the '80s to get these movies on VHS. I was pleased to give my VHS copies of "Murmur" and "Au Revoir"

to a friend as soon as I got my DVD set.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Life's rich pageant 15 May 2006
By Flipper Campbell - Published on
Format: DVD
The Malle box set contains "Murmur of the Heart" (1971), "Lacombe, Lucien" (1974) and his triumph "Au Revoir Les Enfants" (1987) -- all remarkable films set in France. They are in color, with Criterion's usual first-rate transfers (widescreen, enhanced). These films, taken as a trilogy, argue for Malle's inclusion as one of the great directors of the century's second half. They are humanistic works -- uplifting in many places and deeply sad in others. The performances Malle gets from his players are uniformly rich.

Descriptions of "Murmur" usually begin and end with the incest between the teen hero and his youthful mother, but most of the time the film serves up a comic, life-affirming look at growing up in 1950s France. Biographer Pierre Billard, who gives an excellent talk about Malle in the set's extra-features disc, says the French debate over the incest scene quickly morphed into a larger debate over censorship. Malle, he says, "courted scandal."

"Lacombe, Lucien" also brought controversy. The story of a brutish French teenage who joins occupying Germans in hunting down resistance fighters was condemned as soft on collaborators. Malle, who loved documentaries, employed a distanced, non-judgmental tone that acknowledged the humanity of the blood-simple turncoat.

Malle moved to the United States in the late '70s, creating some notable English-language films ("Atlantic City," "Pretty Baby") and some bombs ("Crackers"). His late '80s homecoming inspired more criticism. Malle's years in the States had alienated his countrymen. "They still haven't forgiven him for that," says Candice Bergen, who gives an otherwise upbeat talk about her late husband on the DVD. "It's horrible." (Malle died in 1995, in Los Angeles.)

The director, from a wealthy family, attended a Catholic boarding school during the occupation. Germans raided the school one morning, arresting the head priest and several Jewish children he'd been hiding. They all perished in the camps. These events provided the autobiographical backbone for "Au Revoir Les Enfants," often cited as Malle's greatest work.

It too dealt with collaboration. One of the box set's extras is an unusual character analysis of Joseph, the bitter kitchen worker who informs on the priest.

Other DVD special features include three in-depth audio interviews with Malle; footage of the director at work on "Murmur" and "Lacombe"; the 2005 interviews with Bergen and the biographer; and, in a nice touch, a copy of Charlie Chaplin's "The Immigrant," which the "Enfants" delight to in one of that film's many light-hearted moments.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Very Fine 5 July 2006
By Steiner - Published on
Format: DVD
Louis Malle was perhaps, the quietest, the most meditative, and yet also the most overtly political of the French New Wave filmmakers. Godard eclipsed him in creativity and Truffaut in human empathy, yet there remains a solemn and beautiful unity to Malle's work that often goes unrecognized.

This collection includes three films, `Au Revoir Les Enfants', `Murmer of the Heart', and Lacombe Lucien.' `Au Revoir' is about a Catholic seminary that hides some Jewish children during the Nazi occupation. It is apparently autobiographical, but that should not concern the viewer, for it remains a cinematic (and therefore fictitious) meditation on the possibility of a friendship in times of hardship. The film is unfocused, slow, yet very beautiful and affecting. Although there is something peculiar about the way Malle transforms Jean, the Jewish student of genius into an aesthetic object of exoticism. It reflects the nature of anti-semitism in France, which saw Jews as the enlightened `Other,' in contradistinction to the German conceptualization of the Jewish vermin.

`Murmer of the Heart,' is the outstanding member of the collection. It is a (I hate to say it) coming-of-age comedy, about a precocious young boy thrown into a wild and raucous wealthy family, where is brothers incessantly create commotion, and his brainless and beautiful mother participates in the chaos to the dismay of her husband, who is a gynecologist. Lea Massari is wonderful as the mother. The film is funny, elegant, and highly sensual and provocative.

"Lacombe Lucien,' is about why Fascism exists. It is a study of an adolescent who has no moral center, and blankly works for the Vichy regime and informs on members of the resistance. It is about nihilism, though the film's tone is never severe (perhaps regrettably). There are beautiful moments in this film, particularly of the interiors and that marvelous, yawning great dane. But the film simply goes on for too long. The last half hour of the film is simply devoid of any meaningful or stimulating content. It is a handsome failure.

A very nice collection of films on the whole, the extra features disc is just a way to raise the excessive price.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Knockout punch of brilliance... 2 Dec 2010
By Andrew Ellington - Published on
Format: DVD
Having already reviewed these three films individually (all five star reviews and easily make the top ten's in their respective years), I decided to go ahead and review this collection since it really is a must have set for any serious cinephile and any fan of Malle himself, who struck gold three times over with these brilliant films.

From what I've seen, these are his top tier masterpieces.

Collectively, the beauty of Malle's work here is that he underlines key moments in the life of a child, corralling behind their personal perspective of events that finely sharpen their individual growth. From their sexual curiosity to their personal integrity and nationalistic pride and their own tolerance and social understanding; Malle brilliantly layers his protagonists (and their surrounding comrades) with a natural jus of raw and real complexities. While the moral passions in play within these films are of the utmost precision, Malle never once fails to complete the package with raw and moving performances as well as stirring sets and cinematography that captures the audience and holds them steady within the frames.

These films are expertly made.

So, I've decided to break these down and submit snippets from my full reviews of each film. If you go to their individual pages you can see in further detail why I adore these films, but for the sake of space I'm just going to give brief rundowns to the films provided within this collection.

`Le Souffle au Coeur' (Murmur of the Heart):

Easily my favorite of the three, `Le Souffle au Coeur' is a wildly entertaining look at adolescence from the eyes of fifteen-year-old virgin Laurent Chevalier. Growing up in 1950's France, Laurent is your typical teenager. His older brothers are flamboyant playboys who talk of their exploits and teasing their younger brother. Laurent's father is uninterested in him entirely, and his mother Clara is maybe overly interested; doing her best to compensate. Laurent drinks and smokes and pursues relations (not relationships) with other girls hoping to walk into adulthood. When a bout of scarlet fever sends him to the spa he finds himself reaching at the opportunity to lose his virginity. What I admire about this film is that it takes a very realistic approach to the teenager's idea of sex. There is no over dramatization here or forced tragedy, but everything is seen through the eyes of the naïve and inexperienced. This way the film can grace the stages of adolescence with an almost fearlessness, giving everything the light appeal of a children's story. As Laurent explores his own sexuality we are never offended or put off or even really concerned (although it is apparent that we should be somewhat concerned) because through the eyes of a child this is something grand and exciting. Sure, it's scary and nerve-racking, but in the end it is yet another experience that brings you closer to adulthood.

`Lacombe, Lucien':

Still a stunning example of filmmaking, this is my least favorite of the three (and the only film here that doesn't make my top five in their respective year, although it is easily in the top ten). The film takes place during the summer of 1944 in a small town in France. A young teen named Lucien attempts to join the resistance but is rejected due to his age. Feeling betrayed and embittered Lucien makes a grave choice; to turn his back on his friends and join the Gestapo. Never fully understanding the weight of his decisions, Lucien lives his new life like it were a right, taking what he feels he deserves and holding his power over the heads of those in his way. He forms a relationship of sorts with a Jewish tailor and his beautiful daughter, whom Lucien takes a liking to. His morals are conflicted by his new situation, and his choices thereafter cause a huge rift in his life. The script is brilliantly written. It flows masterfully, complete with a beautiful rise and fall that keeps us glued to the seat. One is left with many questions to ask about their own feelings and beliefs. Free choice is a gift that one's often misuse, but misuse has price, and this film masterfully exposes that reality.

`Au Revoir, les Enfants' (Goodbye, Children):

Heartbreak within subtle tonal shifts is the key to this amazing film experience, and Malle understood that in spades. Without that subtle ambiguity, this film would have been nothing more than a Hollywoodized `message film'. Instead, `Au Revoir, les Enfants' is a total experience. The film follows young Julien Quentin as he befriends a new student, Jean Bonnet. It is apparent right off the bat that Bonnet is not like the other boys, but that doesn't stop Julien from forming a bond with him. As the secrets behind Bonnet's stay at the school are revealed (it isn't too much of a spoiler to reveal that Bonnet is indeed Jewish and he is being hidden at the school by the priests that run it) then the safe haven these boys reside in soon becomes fear inspiring as Jean is being hunted by the French collaborators. The film is a very poignant look, not only at the Nazi rule, but at the impressionable state of our youth. As the boys within the school are conditioned by the world around them, by their parents and their teachers they are forced to find themselves within all the pressure to conform to each and every one else's idea of who they should become. They hate who everyone else hates, they love who everyone else loves and they condone what everyone else condones, but when they take themselves out of their own skin they are given the opportunity to actually choose for themselves who and what they are going to believe. Julien makes that choice, and it is seen on his face as the Gestapo drags away his friend.

For me, what sets these films apart is that they are all socially important films that have stood the tests of time and continue to raise a certain degree of relevance. They are poignant glimpses of the reality within the minds of our youth, and they give us a chance to reflect and grow from experience we may have personally undergone. They are impassioned, they are personal, they are visionary; by most importantly they are relatable.
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