ARGENT DE POCHE (SMALL CHANGE)
France, 1976, 105 minutes.
Directed by Francois Truffaut.
Argent de Poche (Small Change) is an attractive film about children co-written and directed by Francois Truffaut. He brings his customary delight in children to the film - hallowing them almost, though not without a realistic sense of their growing-up pains. Truffaut came to prominence with his semiautobiographical Four Hundred Blows and took the story of its hero Antoine Doinel through several sequels. Here the middle-aged Truffaut looks at a group of children in a small French town and selects a cross-section of them for presentation, selected incidents, relationships, problems. The film is something like a brief kaleidoscope of youngsters growing up in France in the '70s. There is a blend of sentiment and toughness that highlights the humanity of Truffaut himself - who appears momentarily at the beginning as Martine's father.
1. The work of Francois Truffaut? His sense of humanity? Optimism? The difficulties of childhood and the realities of adulthood? His sympathy towards people - except those who exploit? His humour, sadness? A middle aged man glorifying childhood?
2. The device of the postcard at the opening - from Allichamps, in the geographical centre of France? The reception of the card in Thiers. The audience immersed in the life of Thiers? People, children, the daily way of life, school, shops, parents, functions? The gentle perception of the life of the town, the strengths, the harshness? The flavour of the centre of France?
3. The time span of the school year: the events of the year. the children growing up. growing in learning, the teacher's wife and her pregnancy and giving birth, the build-up to holidays once again? A cross-section of the people of France and a cross-section of their lives?
4. The screenplay and the focus on the two classrooms, the two teachers and their response to the children, the children and going out from the classroom to homes, parents? Relationships? The kaleidoscope and collage effect? The immersing of the audience in the life of the town - getting to know some people well. others slightly? How adequate the sketches of the characters? The depth of portraiture? Getting to know people, acquaintance, liking, a feel for the other people? Audience involvement, insight? A cross-section of people representing a cross-section of human beings and the qualities of human nature?
5. The teachers serving as focal points for understanding the children and judging them? The school and its organisation: the principal and his absence, concern, the porter and his interest? The two teachers and their conducting of classes, manner, dress, techniques? The variety of lessons? The postcard and the comments on the geography of France? The recitation of Moliere - and Bruno acting it when the teacher was out of the room? The teachers themselves and their attitudes towards the children, the hard approach of trying to control the children? Richet and his being the mouthpiece of Truffaut? His speech at the end on behalf of the children, condemning injustice? His willingness to take chances with the children? Friendliness outside the classroom? His pregnant wife and her visits, people's concern? The build-up to her having the child and his presence there? His telling the class about Thomas? His interest in the theory of childbirth and helping his wife? His wife and her concern especially for the neighbour with the child who fell? Miss Petit and her liking of the children, her attempts to keep discipline, her harshness? Her attitude towards Julien? Her upset in going to the court case and her conscience about not noticing his being bashed? The incidental details: the acting of Moliere, her companion at the film. her dressing up for the court case? The nurses and their presence in the school and discovering the bashing? A typical presentation of life in the school?
6. The parents and their presence: Madame Riffle and her shop, bringing her son to school, her glamour, Patrick's romanticising her, the meal and his huge appetite and comment on the frugal meal, his decision to buy her flowers and her thinking they were from his father? His feeling the need for a mother? His life with his incapacitated father and helping him? The father and his isolation in the room, his devices for reading? Golfier and his anger at his son's terrible haircut? Sylvie and her charm, her tantrum about not going out, using the loudspeaker to get food and telling them her parents had abandoned her? Her father the policeman and his going to the Le Clou case? Julien and the squalor in which he lived, the audience not knowing what went on inside, his mother and grandmother arrested - their drinking, the brutality? Gregory's mother and her being abandoned by her husband, her friendship with Richet's wife, Gregory and his crawling about and fall?
7. The symbolism of Gregory - the innocent child, the visit, playing on the stairs, the cat and Gregory's fall - the children in a state of grace? His getting up laughing? His mother and her friendships, the date, her work in the theatre?
8. Patrick and Julien as focuses for the children? Patrick and his father, friendship with Laurent, his activities e.g. cleaning the car, going to the film with Bruno and being awkward with the girls? His buying the flowers for Laurent's mother? His kissing Martine at the camp at the end?
9. Julien and coming late in the term, clothes, going to sleep, surliness. attempts at friendship, stealing, rifling the coats, his device of getting into the film free, wandering the streets and the carnival, sleeping at the school gates, his covering up his being bashed, the nurse's examination. his mother and grandmother taken away?
10. The De Lucas at their breakfast, trying to sell the books, handing out the guns to the class?
11. Sylvie and her tantrum with her parents?
12. The humour of the haircut episode and the De Lucas making money?
13. Bruno and puberty, dating the girls, the visit to the prostitute?
14. The atmosphere of the camp at the end, Martine being teased by the girls. Patrick by the boys? Their going out of the room and kissing? The applause at their return?
15. The film's presentation of adolescence and childhood, the phases of growing up? Learning, spontaneity, relationships, parents, crushes, sexual awakening, responsibility? Truffaut's optimism about the future?