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Small Change

By Jeff Shannon

Critic Pauline Kael neatly summed up the timeless appeal of François Truffaut's 1976 film by calling it "that rarity--a poetic comedy that's really funny." In other words, Truffaut's brilliant, upbeat study of resilient children in a French village is both artistically satisfying and joyously entertaining, proving yet again (after his acclaimed debut film The 400 Blows) that few directors remembered and understood the experience of childhood as clearly as Truffaut. The film's episodic structure reveals its young characters gradually, leaving them and returning to them as their individual stories unfold. Most of the sketches are hilarious (as when a little girl uses a megaphone to announce that she's been "abandoned," resulting in generous gifts of food from her surrounding neighbors), but there's also a story about a boy with abusive parents who learns to survive by his own ingenuity. Throughout, this remarkable film gets all the details precisely right, featuring a youthful cast of kids who don't seem to be acting at all. It's as if Truffaut had somehow gained privileged entrance into their world, and they carried on as if the camera simply wasn't there. (Another French film, Ponette, would achieve a similar, more heartbreaking feat two decades later.)

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: François Truffaut

Stars: Geory Desmouceaux, Philippe Goldman, Claudio Deluca, Frank Deluca, Richard Golfier, Laurent Devlaeminck

Released: May 17, 1976

Availability: DVD VHS


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