Children of Montmartre (1933) [Feature]

France (MIFF 2021 )

This 1933 French realist classic is a humane and subversive exploration of child poverty, the limits of schooling and the sanctuary offered by love.

Left penniless and alone after her father’s bankruptcy and death, Rose takes a job working at a kindergarten in the Paris district of Montmartre that aims to educate the city’s poorest children. Affectionate and kind, she offers her wards more than just lessons and discipline. At the heart of this institution is little Marie – abandoned by her sex-worker mother, distrustful of men and perhaps too desperate to be loved.

Based on Léon Frapié’s 1904 Prix Goncourt–winning novel, Children of Montmartre brims with a compassion and authenticity that allow it to at once critique the shortcomings of the French welfare and education systems, and provide a deep understanding of its young characters’ emotional lives. By privileging the child’s point of view, Jean Benoît-Lévy and Marie Epstein reveal, with brutal tenderness, what is at stake for Marie as Rose’s affections turn elsewhere, leading to this tender film’s haunting finale.

“A film of extraordinary insight, tenderness and tragic beauty.” – New York Times

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