Grace is a religious woman who lives in an old house kept dark because her two children, Anne and Nicholas, have a rare sensitivity to light. When the family begins to suspect the house is haunted, Grace fights to protect her children at any cost in the face of strange events and disturbing visions.
Jacques Doillon, the French director of "Ponette," seems to have a special radar into the inner lives of children. And in "Petits Freres," he concentrates on Talia (Stéphanie Touly), a 13-year-old girl adrift with other adolescents in a housing project in a poor suburb of Paris, aggrieved when her playmates steal the gentle pit bull she is raising as a pet and sells the animal to dog fighters. The movie is a poignant study of latchkey children trying establish a fragile community in a corrupt, crime-ridden environment. It is marred, however, by songs that editorialize mawkishly about the children's plight. -- Stephen Holden
2001-05-18 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Petits Freres
With the emotional sweep of a Verdi opera and the narrative density of a 19th-century novel, Luchino Visconti's "Rocco and His Brothers" represents the artistic apotheosis of Italian Neo-Realism. First released in 1960, the film tells the story of the Parondi family, migrants from southern Italy who go to Milan in search of a better life. In five chapters — one devoted to each brother — Visconti chronicles the family's changing fortunes, and in the process explores the transformation of Italian society as the children of dispossessed peasants become soldiers, criminals, sports heroes and industrial workers. "Rocco and His Brothers" lives on partly through the influence it has had on American filmmakers. Neither the neighborhood intimacy of "Mean Streets" nor the grandeur of the "Godfather" movies is imaginable without Visconti's example. — A. O. Scott
1961-01-28 | Bosley Crowther | Read the New York Times Review of Rocco and His Brothers