Friday, December 07, 2012

Louis Malle's 'Les Amants' / 'The Lovers'

Louis Malle's Les Amants / The Lovers (1958) is a wildly subversive gem of a film. Suppressed for supposed indecency and even pornography, it is neither indecent nor pornographic. There's no violence to speak of, and the main character, Jeanne Tournier (Jeanne Moreau), makes her own decisions, her own choices, her own conclusions against the expectations and pressures of the status quo.

I'd go so far as to say that Les Amants is revolutionary in its suggestion of the possibilities of human freedom.

I suppose conservative social and political forces of all stripes would still find its message dangerous.

Generally, The Lovers compares in situation to Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (1856) and Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina / Анна Каренина (1873-1878). And there are moonlit scenes that remind me of Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955). But unlike all three of them, in The Lovers there's neither murder nor suicide involved. Rather, in Malle's film, the big questions are paired down to a relatively small handful of characters within the context of Paris and a rural estate outside of Dijon. And here, everything hinges on the actions and responses of Jeanne -- she is the one who decides how things will go, not the men, and not society, and without violence. It's astonishing, really, because it's so rare to see life depicted this way anywhere -- ever.  I'm still amazed.

Today's Rune: Journey.        


Charles Gramlich said...

a person making their own decisions and choices! Egads, how radical can one be? :)

jodi said...

Erik-this is another one I would like to see. Don't know if other than "Pretty Baby" is I have ever seen Malle's work.15