‘Jeux D’Enfants’ little more than mere shock value and child’s play
BEAVER CREEK – In the same way that “Love Me If You Dare” is a strange translation of “Jeux D’Enfants,” the message conveyed in the film is equally ambiguous. And maybe one could blame off-translation for the void left where the film’s core should have been.Although the film won awards at The Newport Beach and Palm Springs International film festivals and although director Yann Samuell incorporates into it some playful and colorful cinematography, the story just seems a bit too contrived. And, although the plot unravels as a twisted love story, one is left unconvinced.Sophie is the bedraggled little girl at school who is the laughing stock of her classmates – the “dirty Polack.” Julien is the naughty yet imaginative child with a terminally ill mother who suddenly and unexplainably befriends Sophie. The two kick off their relationship when Sophie is picking up her school supplies that the other children have strewn everywhere before getting on the school bus, and Julien performs his first dare by releasing the brake on the bus, allowing it to roll driverless down the street. This is the beginning of a sequence of dares the two exchange throughout their young lives and which carries them into adulthood.
Samuell’s style in “Jeux D’Enfants” has been compared and even equated to that of “Amelie.” Visually, some of the zooms and spinning lenses might be similar, but the substance of the two films, or lack thereof in the case of “Jeux D’Enfants,” are worlds apart.While some scenes are certainly amusing, like when little Julien and Sophie stand side-by-side while being reprimanded in the principal’s office and Julien, on a dare, begins to pee on the floor, the scenes carry little weight beyond shock value.Film critic Walter Chaw, master of ceremonies for this year’s Beaver Creek Film Festival, had similar things to say following the film Friday evening. He also couldn’t figure out where the film was going. Was the whole film just a portrayal of child’s play and its potential for recklessness, or was there supposed to be something deeper conveyed in Sophie and Julien’s relationship? Chaw speculated that the film was a satire of a typical romance.
Roger Ebert also found the film “frustrating” because it was unclear if Julien and Sophie were supposed to represent real people or simply “fictional device.”Beyond the dares and Sophie and Julien’s obvious addiction to seeing each other get into trouble, there is never any consistent evidence that they actually love each other (although more than once they say they do). They both appear to fall in love with other people, but when Sophie botches Julien’s wedding day, he follows her out to the train tracks to watch her blindfold herself on a dare but doesn’t make a move to tell her when the train is coming. One gets the idea that if one or the other would actually kill themselves during the course of their dares, they might sob onto the other’s corpse for a few minutes but never feel truly sorry or accountable. In addition to little depth, there just isn’t any substantial character development in this film. Initially, one feels sorry for little Sophie when she’s the picked-on kid and can’t help admiring her when she wears her underwear outside of her clothes on a big exam day, but you never get the idea that there’s any side to her that’s, well … sane. Similarly, it’s touching to see Julien’s closeness with his ill mother, but on the way home from watching her die at the hospital, he’s already pretending to be an airplane again and disregarding his father’s attempts of love. If there were ever any indication of method to Sophie and Julien’s madness, the film might be more satisfying. But the viewer waits 93 minutes, and the method just fades into the concrete.
The ending, like the romance itself, is at least unpredictable. You might not be touched by this film, in fact, you might be completely perturbed by it, but at least your irritation will keep you from falling asleep.Daily Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 959-0555, ext. 610, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado