Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

Filmed in 1976, this unclassifiable Canadian film directed by Nicolas Gessner features yet another inexplicable performance by 14-year-old Jodie Foster in a year in which she starred in six feature films. Yeah, this was the year she made Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and the Walt Disney production Freaky Friday. Let’s not forget Alan Parker’s directorial debut Bugsy Malone. Plus a French film and yet another one from Canada.

There’s something a little scary about a child who can play the lead in a movie like this — she is in virtually every scene, playing opposite adult actors, most notably Martin Sheen in what is without a doubt one of the creepiest depictions of a child molester I’ve ever seen. Guaranteed to make your skin crawl, but of course, he’s no match for Jodie.

It’s impossible to look away from her, she just radiates a formidable intelligence that somehow makes the story believable. Quiet, still, and unsettling, this is just a great, unsung movie that, once seen, will not be forgotten. Her nascent sexuality, caught between childhood and who she would become as an adult, is rendered meaningless in a richly layered performance.

The closing credits hold a close-up shot of her face for minutes — there is no acting here — whoever it is you are watching, you believe every goddamn minute of it.

Haunting and deeply disturbing. From a 14-year-old who never took an acting lesson.

There’s just no explanation for that.