Monday 9 April 2012

The Lovers (Les Amants) [1958]

The Louis Malle-Jeanne Moreau vehicle The Lovers, upon its release in the US, immediately attracted the ire and attention of American lawmakers. The state of Cleveland convicted the concerned theatre owners for public display of obscene material, which the US Supreme Court overturned with the now legendary definition of obscenity, viz. “I know it when I see it”. Yet, on hindsight, it is strange that this movie generated such controversy as, for me, this is a stunningly made and a deeply affecting romantic drama on the theme that love surfaces at the most improbable of places and materializes between the unlikeliest of people. Jeanne Tournier (Moreau) is the bourgeois wife of a wealthy newspaper who is always busy with his work. In order to escape boredom she regularly flees to Paris from their suburban villa, and is also embroiled in an extra-marital affair with a debonair polo player. Her jealous husband, aware of his wife’s dalliances, invites her lover for dinner; ironically, never did either of the two men ever guess what would transpire that night or the following morning. A young archaeologist (Jean-Marc Bory) gets accidentally invited to the dinner when he gives Jeanne, stranded on account of her broken-down car, a ride to the house – and what ends up brewing between the two is both romantic and surprising. That Jeanne eventually ends up leaving her family and her comfortable life on such a short notice, speaks volumes about her as also the staid environ she used to reside in. This delightfully sensuous, sentimental and elegantly made film was aided by it’s beautifully composed B/W photography, soft and lilting score, and a wonderful central performance by the incredibly beautiful Jeanne Moreau.

Director: Louis Malle
Genre: Drama/Romance
Language: French
Country: France


Jon said...

Agree 100% Shubhajit. I reviewed this one last year and was quite taken with it. Moreau is so beautiful here and the film casts quite a spell. The ending is so fascinating with how quickly they run off and then quickly it seems that they've hit a wall. There appears to be great apprehension on the part of the lovers. I think the whole indecency thing is hard to conceptualize in our time. Certainly we're quite decensitized to things like this. Even so, the nudity is not extreme at all. The adultery aspect would not seem to be even that unique either. Either way, it's a marvelous film.

Shubhajit said...

Yes Jon, I'd noticed your review of this film when you'd put it up at your place. I agree that we might have become quite desensitized to what the film contains, but even so its strange to learn that some people had found it obscene as its anything but one. I too loved the ending, especially the happy appearances of the characters wonderfully juxtaposed against the slightly ominous & fearful tone of the voiceover; in fact, I loved the way Malle used Jeanne's voiceover to put across her inner dilemmas and thought processes, and thus to drive the otherwise unabashedly romantic story forward. And its always a pleasure to see the beautiful Moreau on-screen, isn't it? Thanks a lot Jon for sharing your enthusiasm for this lovely film.

Sam Juliano said...

It is indeed a beautifully wrought and moving drama that didn't deserved such foolish banishment. I do well remember the lovely score and gorgeous visuals, and you ahev done another remarkable job in employing word economy to frame it here!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam. This is really such a soft film & even quite sentimental at times. Some might want to dismiss it for its lightheartedness. Yet these very qualities made me fall in love with this wonderful film by Malle.