René Clément’s FORBIDDEN GAMES (1952), a black comedy-drama set in the French countryside during the German Occupation, starring Brigitte Fossey and Georges Poujouly as two children who form a special bond.
“Michel! Michel! Michel!” France 1940, and as a refugee column trudges along a country road, a dog makes a break for it, with its tiny blonde mistress in pursuit — and then the German fighters strike. But if 5-year-old Parisienne Brigitte Fossey’s understanding of death is limited as she strokes her mother’s cold face, at least she can bury the dog discarded by her peasant rescuers, aided by 11-year-old farm boy Georges Poujouly. And as they build a special, secret friendship, their pet cemetery in the midst of death steadily grows, topped by crosses stolen from graveyards, even as the adults play their own games of buffoonish, grotesque peasant feuds… And then Fossey (“in a performance that rips the heart out” – New York Times) shouts his name again.
Adapted by the legendary team of Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost from François Boyer’s successful-in-America novel, with a haunting hit score played by guitar virtuoso Narciso Yepes, the ultimately beautiful, hilarious and disturbing Games initially did so-so box office and screened only on the fringes of the Cannes Festival, then nearly got shut out of Venice — where it promptly won its top prize, the Golden Lion — and then became a worldwide art house smash and Clémént’s second Best Foreign Film Oscar winner (following the previous year’s The Walls of Malapaga). It was also named the Best Foreign Film of the Year at the annual Kinema Jumpo awards in Japan.
One of the leading French directors of the post-war period, Clément had previously won the Best Director prize at Cannes for La Bataille du Rail (1946) and would later make the international smash Purple Noon (1960).Both Poujouly (who died in 2000) and Fossey would continue their acting careers into adulthood.Still active in French film and television, Fossey’s credits includeBertrand Blier’s Going Places, Truffaut’s The Man Who Loved Women and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso.
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