PONETTE (Jacques Doillon, 1996)

Writer-director Jacques Doillon, who is the father of three girls, to his everlasting disgrace made Ponette, a pornographic exploitation of a four-year-old’s coping with the death (by road accident) of her mother. It’s a piece of “sensitive” trash.
     Preposterously, Victoire Thivisol won best actress at Venice; the child does nothing but react as she has been directed to. There is no “performance” here, good or bad.
     There is the possibility, I guess, of a theme: the collision between Catholic education (as a child processes it) and the reality of such a loss as Ponette has suffered. It is momentarily interesting that a peer should assail grief-stricken Ponette with the nonsense that God must have taken her mother as a consequence of her, Ponette’s, bad behavior.
     There is a heartless, despicable passage where Ponette receives some sort of compensation for her loss of her mother. The latter appears to Ponette, and to us, in the flesh. Such cruelty as Doillon’s is impossible for me to process. One is left to wonder just who responds to this sort of film.
     The New York Film Critics Circle named Ponette best foreign-language film of the year.

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