Pocket Money (François Truffaut, 1976)


Directed by François Truffaut. Rating: PG. Running time: 104 minutes.

Here’s a question: how on earth do you go about making a film completely and utterly revolving around kids? I don’t mean a documentary like Être et avoir, which whilst formidable and totally about schooling, nevertheless did not involve acting. Nor do I mean a film with a few kids, or kids in merely a secondary role. I mean a film like this, Truffaut’s L’Argent de poche, in which the location might as well be called Kidsville where adults are practically forbidden. Teachers and parents are there, but the film is about when they are not, and that’s when it flourishes in a really magical way.

The children weren’t professional actors and Truffaut didn’t write them a script. Rather, he channelled his fascination with childhood into L’Argent de Poche by conjuring up various situations, somehow conveying those ideas to the kids and pointing the camera at them as they partially reenacted them, and naturally partially improvised the simple and short dialogue, too. The result, somehow, works perfectly. From the toddler left by his mother who toys with a kitten before pushing it out the window, and then following suit and somehow safely jumping out himself; to the girl refusing to eat out with her parents because they won’t let her take her dirty ‘handbag’ with them, and who is subsequently left alone to demand food from her neighbours by blasting it out onto the Rear Windowesque quad on a megaphone, the kids throughout the film never stop being funny, innocent or clever.

There’s hints of sexual discovery amongst the older kids in the film, too, and one case of domestic violence to darken things slightly. But the latter is only used as a means to the making of a concluding speech from a teacher, summing up the film’s philosophy in its appraisal of the virtues and importance of youth and childhood. What a really great film and a bundle of joy.

2 Responses to “Pocket Money (François Truffaut, 1976)”

  1. 1 Amber

    I love this film! Francois Truffaut is one of those directors whose films, despite being lumped with the films of esoterists like Jean Luc Godard, make you feel at the end that you’ve travelled through someone else’s emotional journey. Fantastic post.

  2. 2 Jim McDonald

    This is simply the finest film ever made about children because the children are at the very centre of the scenario. The sheer lack of a script is astonishing on the surface, but it is the very absence of an adult driven screenplay that allowed Truffaut to create such a remarkable film. The naturalism as found in this film has rarely, probably never been achieved by any other director.

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