the fresh films reviews

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The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

Nicolas Gessner
Den lille piken nederst i veien
100 minutes
Zev Braun
Screenwriter (based on his novel):
Laird Koenig

Cast includes:

Rynn Jacobs Jodie Foster
Frank Hallet Martin Sheen
Mario Scott Jacoby
Mrs. Hallet Alexis Smith
Officer Miglioriti Mort Shuman



As refreshing as thirty year old films come, made at a time when artistic freedom was not only valued in Hollywood, but all but the norm. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a film deriving from genre conventions, but made free from these rules. It is a film about moral issues, but completely free of moralizing. And it's a film about exploitation, but without being exploitative - almost. (Because the talk of the town was 13-year-old Jodie Foster's butt, which was really her 20-year-old sister's butt. This is a discussion about film production, however, not the artwork itself, and thus largely irrelevant - especially 35 years later).

The real relevance here lies in the film's two atypical approximations of standards; one formal, one thematic. The former concerns how the film uses the typical build-up and expectations of the horror genre to create a tension which is never released as expected in this genre. This gives the film a level and type of suspense which sets it apart and gives it its own, vibrant identity; an eerie mystery with integrity. The latter concerns how the film treats the title character, who is brilliantly and maturely portrayed by Jodie Foster, like an adult in every respect; precisely in order to contrast and thereby slightly criticize (or at least question) the society's perception of her. How can a 13-year-old girl live alone? Society treats this as a deviation; the film itself makes no fuss about it, takes it at face value. And this conflict gives The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane a relevance which is not an ounce reduced today. The sensible direction by Nicolas Gessner adds to the effect, and so do the whole-hearted performances by young Scott Jacoby as the boyfriend, and Martin Sheen as the creepy guy next door.

Copyright 26.9.2012 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang