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The Little Thief

The Little Thief

A Feature film by Claude Miller

Produced by Orly Films, Les films du Carrosse, Renn Productions, Ciné 5, Societé d'Exploitation et de Distribution de Films (SEDIF)

Release in France : 21/12/1988

    Synopsis

    In 1950, the 16-year-old Janine lives with her uncle and aunt somewhere in France. She steals everything that she can find, with a preference for fine lingerie and American cigarettes. She leaves school and goes to work as a maid for a middle-class family. She has an affair with an older married man as well as with a boy of her age, who is also a thief..

    Actors (27)

    Production and distribution (2)

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    International releases (14)

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    Review

    It would be easy to wrap ''The Little Thief'' in nostalgia, to treasure it as the last legacy of Francois Truffaut. Before his death in 1984, Truffaut had written, with Claude de Givray, a brief scenario for the story of Janine, a neglected, spirited, imaginative adolescent of the 1950's. He had invented the girl more than 20 years before as Antoine Doinel's companion in ''The 400 Blows,'' but had cut the character from that film and carried her image to the end of his life.

    It would be easy to wrap ''The Little Thief'' in nostalgia, to treasure it as the last legacy of Francois Truffaut. Before his death in 1984, Truffaut had written, with Claude de Givray, a brief scenario for the story of Janine, a neglected, spirited, imaginative adolescent of the 1950's. He had invented the girl more than 20 years before as Antoine Doinel's companion in ''The 400 Blows,'' but had cut the character from that film and carried her image to the end of his life.

    ''The Little Thief'' was to have been Truffaut's next film, and if he had lived to make it, it would have taken him full circle, back to his first feature and the subjects of childhood and adolescence that so intrigued him. Before he died, he asked the producer and director Claude Berri to take over the project, which Mr. Berri finally steered to Claude Miller, who is best known for the thriller ''Garde a Vue,'' and who worked as Truffaut's assistant director for many years.

    Despite all these practical and sentimental connections, ''The Little Thief'' is not Truffaut's last film. It stands on its own as a charming, insightful work commanded by Charlotte Gainsbourg's beautiful, deft, touching performance. As Janine, she is a lost lamb trying desperately to be grown-up and independent, daring to be bad. Though ''The Little Thief'' lacks the immense grace and fluid camera work of Truffaut, it is a remarkable character portrait full of wit, charm and sadness.

    In addition to the intense focus on its wily, lonely central character, ''The Little Thief'' most resembles ''The 400 Blows'' in its feeling that, as Truffaut said of his own film, ''Adolescence leaves pleasant memories only for adults who cannot remember.'' But Janine is more advanced in thievery and sexuality than Antoine. She walks out of school - where the girls have been given padlocks to stop the rash of recent thefts - looking childish, in a shabby pink dress, her hair in a lank ponytail hanging over her shoulders. She ducks into a latrine, where she changes into a stylish blue polka-dotted dress and high heels and ties her hair into a chignon. It is a mark of the film's delicacy that Janine emerges looking only marginally older.

    She returns to the farm where she lives with her kind but weak uncle and her belligerent aunt (who complains that Janine is just like the mother who abandoned her, crazy for movies and men). Now Janine wears a stolen slip under the blue dress under the pink school clothes, the layers suggesting the confusion of her identity. No matter how much sexual and criminal activity she racks up, the way her bangs hang into her eyes seems childish rather than sexy, and her whispery voice is a sign of uncertainty and innocence rather than a calculated little-girl breathiness.

    After she tries to rob the church, the local police suggest that the uncontrollable girl leave town. She gets a job as a maid, meets a 43-year-old married man named Michel, and determinedly sets out to have an affair with him. When Michel says he will not sleep with a virgin, Janine quickly loses her innocence to a handyman who happens to be working in the house. She does this between scenes, as if the event is totally unimportant to her. And while that touch is unconvincing, it suits the film's fierce adherence to Janine's point of view.

    In fact, Michel does not seem so bad, for an adulturous older man. He sends Janine to secretarial school, and in an act of love she steals a volume of Victor Hugo's poetry for him. He only begins to resemble a waste of time when Janine meets Raoul, a handsome young thief who races motorcycles. She steals from her employers and runs off wth Raoul, only to be caught and sent to a reform school. Like Antoine, her patience for the place is very slight.

    Mr. Miller creates a strong sense of the atmosphere that shapes Janine, especially the rural village where a white-haired woman who owns the bar doubles as an abortionist. But the film relies on Miss Gainsbourg, who has also appeared in Mr. Miller's ''Charlotte and Lulu,'' and who was the single redeeming feature in Agnes Varda's recent ''Kung Fu Master.'' Few actors at any age have given such an engaging and wise performance.

    © Caryn James, "The New York Times", Aug. 25, 1969

    Source : movies.nytimes.com

    Photos (7)

    Full credits (19)

    Assistant directors :

    Valérie Othnin-Girard, Nathan Miller, Nathalie Serrault, Sherif Scouri

    Dialogue Writers :

    Claude Miller, Luc Béraud, Annie Miller

    Line Producer :

    Jean-José Richer

    Director of Photography :

    Dominique Chapuis

    Sound Assistant :

    Jean-Pierre Lelong

    Production Manager :

    Daniel Chevalier

    Sound editor :

    Nadine Muse

    Continuity supervisor :

    Annie Miller

    Music Composer :

    Alain Jomy

    Sound Mixer :

    Gérard Lamps

    Adapters/dialogue writers :

    Claude Miller, Luc Béraud, Annie Miller

    Producers :

    Claude Berri, Jean-Louis Livi, Alain Vannier

    Screenwriters :

    François Truffaut, Claude de Givray

    Sound Recordist :

    Paul Lainé

    Assistant Operators :

    Thierry Jault, Guillaume Schiffman, Jean-Luc Rigaut

    Editor :

    Albert Jurgenson

    Assistant Editor :

    Jean-Pierre Besnard

    Production Designer :

    Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko

    Costume designers :

    Catherine Bouchard, Jacqueline Bouchard

    Technical details

    Feature film

    Genres :

    Fiction

    Sub-genre :

    Drama, Romance

    Themes :

    Murder, Adolescence

    Production language :

    French

    Production country :

    France

    Original French-language productions :

    Unknown

    Nationality :

    100% French (France)

    Production year :

    1988

    French release :

    21/12/1988

    Runtime :

    1 h 49 min

    Current status :

    Released

    Visa number :

    28300

    Visa issue date :

    14/12/1988

    Approval :

    Unknown

    Production formats :

    Photographic camera

    Color type :

    Color

    Audio format :

    Mono

    Posters (4)

    Director

    Festival Selections (2)

    Awards (2)

    Cesar Awards - French film industry awards - 1989

    Cesar Awards - French film industry awards (France, 1989)

    Awards

    Cesar Award for Best Film Poster

    French Syndicate of Cinema Critics - 1988

    French Syndicate of Cinema Critics (1988)

    Awards

    French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Price