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Julien Duvivier: Poetic Craftsman of Cinema

Friday, October 2, 2009
8:50 p.m. Poil de Carotte
Julien Duvivier (France, 1932)

(The Red-Head, a.k.a. Carrot Top). Returning to Jules Renard’s novel, which he had previously adapted in a 1925 silent film, Duvivier exquisitely renders the tale of a sensitive red-haired farm boy—nicknamed Poil de Carotte (Carrot Top)—who is abused by a malicious mother and an indifferent father and driven in despair and loneliness to attempt suicide. With its justifiably famous scene of Poil de Carotte’s “wedding” to a little country girl, this astonishingly sophisticated early sound film is a visual poem of innocence and grace that would inspire René Clément’s Forbidden Games twenty years later. “In a rare example of a remake surpassing its memorable original,” notes film historian and critic Lenny Borger, “Duvivier gave definitive form to this classic chronicle of childhood. Harry Baur plays the father with all his subtle authority and young Robert Lynen cuts deep to the desperate pathos of lonely Poil de Carotte. A film of great tenderness and lyricism, with a final reconciliation scene between Baur and Lynen to force a sob from the stoniest breast.”

• Written by Duvivier, based on the novel by Jules Renard. Photographed by Armand Thirard, Monniot. With Harry Baur, Robert Lynen, Louis Gauthier, Simone Aubry. (91 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission Tamasa)