Films at the Whitney

Inaugurated in 2009 by the Whitney Humanities Center to help foster a dynamic film culture at Yale, Films at the Whitney supports a host of other film-related events, including

- Film conferences and festivals

- Special screenings and workshops with visiting filmmakers

- Faculty- and student-organized screenings
, and more.

Films at the Whitney welcomes proposals for screening events. (Please email proposals to Scheduling priority is given to proposals from student organizations, academic departments and programs, and university libraries and museums.

Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 2pm 

HQ L01 (320 York Street) 

Maurice Pialat, Lenfance nue and Lamour existe

Films at the Whitney and the Yale Film Archive present a very special screening of Maurice Pialats LENFANCE NUE (Naked Childhood, 1968)—a stark, lacerating, unflinching study of a wayward and bitter child. LENFANCE NUE announced the coming of one of the most controversial and brutal directors cinema has ever known. Often popularly regarded as the French John Cassavetes, Pialat depicts a world in which such notions as empathy, sentiment, and the goodness in humanity wither mercilessly. Though Pialat, whose first serious métier was painting, was something of a self-styled sworn enemy of the Nouvelle Vague, the film was financed by none other than François Truffaut (the director of the first Films at the Whitney screening, TWO ENGLISH GIRLS). Certainly, Truffaut saw more than a touching resemblance to the films focus on a hell-raising child misunderstood by society. But LENFANCE NUE is, as Phillip Lopate astutely notes, something of an anti-400 BLOWS: the loving close-ups lavished upon Jean-Pierre Léaud in the Truffaut film are nowhere to be found in Pialats cold, matter-of-fact presentation of the boy (perhaps not coincidentally named François), whom we only see in medium- or long-shot. A damning look at alienation, rage, and bitterness as only Pialat could do. He swore he would do more audience-pleasing work following the commercial failure of this film upon release—an absurd promise in hindsight, given that Pialat only became more and more unpleasant, grim, and anguished in his look into the dark recesses of the human capacity for cruelty and emotional violence. 


The film is preceded by Pialats underseen, prize-winning, 20-minute short LAMOUR EXISTE (Love Exists, 1960), which first brought Pialat to the attention of Truffaut. It is a lyrical, devastating look at dead-end life in the suburbs outside of Paris. The material treated here would be given dramatic shape nearly 20 years later, in Pialats massively underrated PASSE TON BAC DABORD  (Graduate First, 1979). But it also presents an alluring, poetic, Romantic side to the normally chilly Pialat—a path that he could have easily taken, had this been his artistic desire. It was not —he aimed, in his eyes, for more— nd LENFANCE NUE heralds the Pialat style as we now know it. 


—Carlos Valladares, PhD candidate in Film and Media Studies and coordinator of Films at the Whitney