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Sunday, October 4, 2009

LES AMANTS / THE LOVERS (1958)


Jeanne Moreau and Louis Malle quickly followed up on their narrative-driven nouveau vague thriller (FRANTIC / aka ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS/’57) with this scandalous character-driven piece. It’s in the literary tradition of MADAME BOVARY and A DOLL’S HOUSE with Moreau typically superb as a beautifully kept, but bored provincial housewife. She regularly pops off to Paris to see her old school chum and for sexual adventures with a polo-playing playboy. Her officious husband invites them all to what promises to be a perfectly ghastly dinner, but when Moreau’s expensive Peugeot breaks down she’s rescued by a young man in a Citroen, the ultimate French flivver. He’s from her world, but purposefully not of her world, having rejected the charms of the bourgeoisie. The repulsion/attraction gene is undeniable and leads to a night of sexual chemistry portrayed with a frankness new at the time. And while the explicit scenes have long been outstripped, the heat generated remains considerable. Paradoxically, the genre strictures of FRANTIC may have been more stylistically & personally revealing, but then, Malle always reveled in the guise of artistic moving target.

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