Thursday, July 06, 2006

French Tart

Recently released as a double DVD by the Criterion Collection, A Nos Amours came new to me. I had seen director Maurice Pialat's Lou Lou during an Isabelle Huppert marathon (one of many), and thought little of it. His style is rather reticent of the more languid side of French cinema. That is not to say dull, just slow. And I must admit, I rented this one because the disc included an interview with writer, director, theorist Catherine Breillat, whose cinematic endeavors (including Fat Girl, Romance, and Anatomy of Hell) have sparked controversy and accumulated a rather limited, yet adamant following of viewers(this critic certainly included). In the short interview, Breillat explains that she learned everything she knew about filmmaking from the fatherly and explosive Pialat. That this is noticeable from the first minute, I find it rather succinct in saying that Pialat's film is like a Breillat film, had Breillat possessed compassion for her subjects.

For Pialat adores Sandrine Bonnaire. Of that we have no doubt. He knows what a tempestuous little shit she is, yet, however slight it may become, we never cease to sympathize with her. In her first leading role, Bonnaire is a headstrong tart, guided (as it is in the film) by the hand of her fatherly director. It is this admirations which separates Bonnaire's Suzanne from resembling the lead of any Breillat film. She may pose and pout for the camera, and to this we accredit perhaps 45% to acting, but that gaze with which we admire her, understand her is wise well beyond her years. We can feel her stubborn youth colliding with Pialat's experience, and this is A Nos Amours great thrill. That is not to discredit Breillat's maturity, her films are merely more interested in provocation than Pialat's. Moments of violent sobriety interrupt the (essential) monotony of her amorous adventures. It is a film which allows for the quieter moments to take the place of more sensational ones, and it is this restraint that eventually imbues the film with a quiet confidence that transcends your typical coming of age movie.


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