Sunday 26 May 2013

Les Choses de la Vie (The Things of Life) [1970]

Though Sautet got his first international success with The Big Risk, Les Choses de la Vie was possibly a bigger milestone in his career. It was with this film that he came into his own as a master chronicler of the lives of the urban French bourgeoisie, and it also made him a household name among cineastes. Though he went on to make even better films on what became his pet theme, this was nonetheless a poignant, layered and understated account of a man’s dilemma vis-à-vis his emotional attachment, reflected during his moment of reckoning. It begins with a terrible car accident and the person badly injured, as it turns out, is the protagonist – Pierre (Michel Piccoli), who, while drifting in and out of consciousness, starts recollecting episodes and fragments, both happy and sad, from his life. What emerges is that, despite his outward impassivity, he is torn between Hélène (Romy Schneider), his gorgeous fiancé with whom he presently lives, and his estranged wife Catherine (Léa Massari) and son (Gérard Lartigau) who he visits on and off. As memories of the good times he shared with his family flood through his mind, so do snippets of the small cracks that have started developing between him and Hélène. The story ended on an unresolved note, both literally and figuratively, and pun intended, which showed early in his career his proficiency at concocting memorable endings. Piccoli was good in the lead role, but Montand, who portrayed a similar scenario in Vincent, Francois, Paul & the Others, would certainly have done a better job at it. The simple, melancholic score deserves a special mention.

Director: Claude Sautet
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Family Drama/Romance
Language: French


Sam Juliano said...

Yes this does have a lovely score. Again you bring scholarly heft to the assessment of another formidable work by a director who remains seriously underrated by a good many cineastes.

Shubhajit said...

I'd consider this a comparatively lighter work vis-a-vis his subsequent film, even if it was formally interesting. In some ways, however, it reminded me of Resnais' Je T'Aime Je T'Aime.