“If Chris Marker wasn’t exactly prophetic when he declared in the pages of Libération that Demi-tarif, the 2003 directorial debut of actress Isild Le Besco, heralded a new Nouvelle Vague of which Le Besco’s film would come to be seen as the Breathless, his enthusiasm was hardly unwarranted (even if Demi-tarif is arguably closer in tone to The 400 Blows). Released when Le Besco was all of 21—and already well-known as the on- and off-screen muse of Benoît Jacquot—the incredibly assured film covers an unspecified amount of time in the lives of three Parisian children, ages 7 to 9, left to their own devices by an absentee mother who periodically pops in on them and then just as quickly disappears. So the City of Lights becomes their private playground—one that they navigate with artful dodging (sliding under subway turnstiles, shoplifting, sneaking into movies) and little interference from the adult world. The wild invention of childhood make-believe disguises, but never fully obscures, the underlying despair of the situation, while Le Besco’s discreet digital video camerawork is like a pencil jotting down recollections in a journal.”

—Scott Foundas, Film Comment January/February 2011