on March 14, 1997 by Kevin Courrier
   When a four-year-old girl named Ponette (Victorie Thivisol) loses her mother in a car accident, and her father is at loose ends to describe her demise in ways that she can understand, Ponette is left to come to terms with her mother's death on her own with her peers. With her toys, and her school friends by her side, Ponette learns how o accept loss. br>   What "Ponette" delves into is the same subject that Rene Clement did in his masterful film "Forbidden Games," and that's the world that children create to try to understand the finality of death. But, where lement brought a poet's inventiveness in order to comprehend that world the children created (like the graveyard for dead animals), filmmaker Jacques Doillon here takes a realist approach that gets pretty monotonous. He repeats the same motifs over and over till you just get tired of feeling badly for this girl.
   Thivsol's performance is earning some praise (including a Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival) but, anytime she gets upset, Doillon just shoves the camera in her face so her tears mbellish the screen, and her choked-up sobs fill the soundtrack. Doillon obviously never met a close-up he didn't like.) The realist pproach works best in the interaction between the kids, which is believable and at times touching (for example, when a young boy rubs Ponette's tummy with imaginary vapor gel to make her feel better.) The film could be trying to show how a child's ingenuity compensates for the pain of loss, but Doillon doesn't show much of a gift for ephemeral material. When Doillon does aim for an epiphany, he instead delivers a banal homily as a resolution. "Ponette" is, in the end, an unimaginative view of a child's imagination.    Starring Victorie Thivisol, Marie Trintignant, Xavier Beauvois and Claire Nebout. Directed and written by Jacques Doillon. Produced by Alain Sarde. An Arrow release. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 107 min. Screened at the Venice fest.
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