Zazie dans le métro, Blu-ray (1960/2011)
Director: Louis Malle
Starring: Philippe Noiret, Catherine Demongeot, Hubert Deschamps
Studio: Nouvelles Editions de Films/The Criterion Collection 570 [6/28/11]
Video: 1.33:1 color 1080p HD
Audio: French PCM mono
Extras: Archival interviews with Malle, novelist Raymond Queneau, young actress Demongeot; “Le Paris de Zazie” – interview with assistant director Philippe Collin; Theatrical trailer, Printed illustrated booklet with essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
Lenth: 92 minutes
Interesting but to me rather silly stream-of-consciousness slapstick predecessor to the French New Wave – not as successful as Malle’s next film, also about a young girl’s discoveries of the odd world around her (Black Moon).
The precocious 11-year-old Zazie is left off in Paris with her uncle by her rather wild mother so she can spend time with a new lover. Uncle’s a rakish type who is identified as only “an entertainer,” but eventually we learn that he’s the lead female impersonator in a nightclub (though we never get to see him perform in costume, darn it!). This was Malle’s first feature in color, and he takes advantage of showing many aspects of the City of Light, with an emphasis on the bumper-to-bumper traffic. A variety of tourists are part of the many visual gags, and a favored gimmick is the mis-identification of various places of interest, such as Les Invalides. Zazie actually never gets to the métro – which was her primary interest in Paris – because it’s on strike. But she is quite successful in destroying just about everything she runs into in the city. The original novel was based on much word-play in French, but most of that is missed in the English subtitles. Except that Zazie thinks her married uncle is a "homossesual."
Some of the anarchic comedy is a bit too strung out and loose for me, and the playing around with camera editing tricks, speeding up, jump cuts and effects seems like the efforts of a young filmmaker just fooling around with what he has discovered he can do. The closing complete destruction of the restaurant where the crowd goes after the uncle’s performance that he invited them to is way too long, too harsh, slapdash and silly. It even includes a fake machine-gunning of some of the characters by a sort of overdone French version of Il Duce and his soldiers – to what purpose I cannot imagine.
— John Sunier