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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely superb in every department!, 14 July 2012
This review is from: Poil De Carotte (FR IMPORT) (DVD)
THE FILM: Bullied by his hateful mother and by his much older brother and sister, ignored by his father, the childhood of eleven years old Francoise Lepic (Robert Lynen) is as miserable as it could ever be. An illegitimate and unwanted child, he is the main reason for the ill feeling which exists between his parents, who continue to live in the same house, but are far apart. His mother keeps him dressed in old and tattered cast-offs and hand me downs, while his much older brother and sister have the best clothes that money can buy. Meanwhile, he doesn't even have any underpants to wear; he is skinny because she denies him his share of the food; although he has fair hair, his mother insists that he has red hair and this gives her an excuse to hate him, nicknaming him Poil de Carotte (the carrot top). She always has him doing the chores while his older siblings sit around doing nothing. Miserably unhappy herself and trapped in a loveless marriage, she makes sure he is denied anything that would make him happy. In the midst of all this, Francoise has learned to put on a happy face for outsiders such as his teacher at school, while inside, he is seething with resentment and unhappiness. In the end, Poil de Carotte's suffering becomes more than he can bear and he decides to kill himself...!

This is one hell of a terrific film and it should be made available on DVD to a wider audience with English subtitles. Director Julien Duvivier could easily be thought of as the Carol Reed of French cinema...certainly he was just as good at getting wonderful performances out of boys who had never acted before...and there are some real standout scenes in this example of his work. One is where Francoise is out playing in a stream when the family's maid, Annette, comes after him in a horse and trap. His mother wants him to go home and do the chores. As they drive back to his unhappy home with Francoise driving, he sees children being loved by their parents and other adults in the fields they pass. Enraged that they can be happy when he can't, Francoise stands up in the cart and whips the horse into a furious gallop again and again as Annette tries to wrestle the reins from him. "NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME LIKE THAT!", he shouts, as he whips the horse to go faster and faster, almost running people down walking along the road. "NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME! NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME!", he yells, as Annette begs him to stop and tries to grab the reins from his hand. This is a stunning sequence, a superb blend of editing and scoring and acting from an eleven year old the likes of which I'd never seen before. Towards the end of the film, where his father enters the barn just in time to prevent his son from hanging himself, we see the most powerful scene in this remarkable film. "TAKE OFF THE ROPE!", the father orders as he wrestles with his son, trying to prevent him jumping off the crate. "NO! NO! NO!", cries Francoise. "TAKE IT OFF!" shouts his father. "I WANT TO DIE! I WANT TO DIE!", cries the boy.

The film was released in France in November, 1932 and Robert caused a sensation, rocketing to stardom overnight. Incredibly, the film ran for twelve months in Paris, something that was unheard of during the depression.

I had never heard the name Robert Lynen until I came across a Picturegoer magazine from October, 1948, containing a review of Carol Reed's then new film release "The Fallen Idol", where the reviewer said that child actor Bobby Henrey was comparable to another child actor, Robert Lynen, who caused a sensation in the French film "Poil de Carotte" and that Robert was killed during the war. I immediately investigated this and found that not only was there a similarity in the boy's looks and manners, but that during the war, Robert joined the French resistance (a very brave thing to do); that he was caught by the Gestapo and tortured before being executed along with fourteen of his colleagues and thrown into a mass grave. A terrible and totally unjustified end for this very talented French former child actor who had appeared in many films and was well loved. Yes, he was a real hero and I would have been proud to know him.

His remains were later removed and reburied in a proper grave and a colour photo of it can be found on the Find a Grave website. I soon bought the DVD of his 1932 film "Poil de Carotte" from amazon France and was enthralled by it, even though it had no English subtitles. But a friend of mine sent me an AVI DVD-R of the film with English subtitles, which made viewing the film an even better experience. Oddly, Robert Lynen's full name was Robert Henri Lynen, so he could also have been called Bobby Henri as a child.

THE DVD: This 80 years old film has obviously been restored for this DVD and the image is sharp, if a little on the dark side, and the sound is excellent, loud and clear. Highly Recommended until they release it with much needed English subtitles.
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