En Rachachant and Les Enfants

Two very different adaptations of the same children’s book by Marguerite Duras, Ah Ernesto!, about a seven-year-old boy who refuses to go to school. The first, earlier and to my mind better, is En rachachant (1982), a brilliant, rigorous, and hilarious nine-minute black-and-white short by Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, shot by the great Henri Alekan. The second, Les enfants (1984), adapted and directed by Duras herself, is 94 minutes long and has a middle-aged actor (Axel Bougousslavsky) playing the part of Ernesto as well as a more ponderous way of wrestling with some of the same cosmic issues, though it’s still a fascinating, far from routine piece of work. Tatiana Moukhine and Daniel Gelin play the boy’s parents. (JR)

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