Zazie dans le Métro

“a film from Mars, a very French Mars”

—Michael Atkinson

Ten-year-old Zazie arrives in Paris to spend a weekend with her eccentric uncle. Her dream is to ride the metro – but with a strike underway, she has to find other forms of entertainment. 

So begins a combustible whirlwind tour of above-ground 1960s Paris, populated by a gaudy cast of gregarious, sometimes dubious, adults.

Zazie navigates them all with gap-toothed insouciance.  

Louis Malle's film is an adaptation of a raucously experimental novel of the same name by Raymond Queneau, co-founder of the Oulipo group.

Malle transposes Queneau's linguistic ingenuity with an inexhaustible collection of cinematic tricks and high-wire antics, giving the film an infectious sense of play.

Malle's profound but irreverent engagement with cinematic form has earned the film many admirers across the decades, including Charlie Chaplin, Richard Ayoade, and the New York Times critic A.O. Scott.

Scott cites it as “one of the movies that made me who I am today … there’s no doubt that my delighted incomprehension of the film itself inspired me to seek out more like it, and to intuit that there was a world of cinematic possibility.”

Beneath the fun and games, however, are distinctly grown-up undercurrents. Sexual interest everywhere drives the madcap action, and Zazie is far from immune to it – even if she eludes it with distinctively childlike effortlessness.

Zazie dans le Métro might be set in a zanily coloured, surrealist Paris, but its depiction of a world shared, uneasily and necessarily, by children and adults resounds with authenticity.

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