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Pocket Money
cast: Nicole Felix, Chantal Mercier, Jean-François Stevenin, Virginie Thevenet, and Tania Torrens

director: François Truffaut

101 minutes (PG) 1976
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
MGM DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Pocket Money (aka: L'argent de poche) is set, rather symbolically, in Thiers, a town reckoned to be the geographical centre of France. There's no overall plot, just a series of incidents in the lives of a group of junior-schoolchildren, their parents and their teacher (Jean-François Stevenin). The incidents involve the experience of starting school and first love. Meanwhile, more troubled children cause problems. One child, a petty thief, is the most troubled of all, and the revelation of the cause of his behaviour ends the film on a darker note.

Truffaut made Pocket Money in 1976, just before starting work as an actor on Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. In fact, Spielberg suggested the American-release title, Small Change. Truffaut's first film, The 400 Blows, dealt with the theme of childhood, in that case the director's own. In later films such as The Wild Child, he would return to the theme, just as unsentimentally. However, Pocket Money errs a little too far in the direction of cuteness. It's too intent on charming the audience into submission. That said, there are plenty of things to enjoy, not to mention a heart-stopping episode where the youngest child in the film follows a cat out onto an apartment balcony. Truffaut doesn't sanitise his children's language or behaviour (there's a scene where two boys use a telescope to spy on a naked woman across the way), which does stretch the bounds of the film's PG certificate. (It's a '12' in Ireland.) Pocket Money may not be one of Truffaut's best films but, lightweight as it is, it's certainly worth the attention of the director's fans. The camerawork of Pierre-William Glenn (standing in for Truffaut's regular DP Nestor Almendros, who wasn't available) aids the sense of naturalness.

MGM's DVD is uniform with their other Truffaut releases. The picture is in the original ratio of 1.66:1 and is not anamorphically enhanced. The soundtrack is the original mono, with German, Italian and Spanish dubbed options. Subtitles are available in English (hard-of-hearing), German (hard-of-hearing), French, Italian, Spanish, Danish and Greek. The only extra is a trailer in somewhat scratchy condition, introduced by Truffaut himself.

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