Dir: Maurice Pialat, 1980. Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Gerard Depardieu, Guy Marchand. Foreign.
Some of the most daring romantic dramas are ones in which the lovers in question are total opposites, or with each other for reasons that don't have anything to do with love. While anticipating their breakup throughout the film's entirety, you take on the role of a mediator in your imagination. You notice the flaws in each lover, and how those very flaws attract the other person. You take sides in their disputes depending on whoever seems to be more tolerable. It's precisely this kind of intrusion—the ability to analyze and compare someone's circumstances with your own—that makes the story work and keeps you invested.

In the film Gerard Depardieu plays Loulou, a penniless playboy and ex-con who prides himself on breaking girls' hearts by flaunting his unwillingness to be monogamous. His whipped ex-girlfriend Dominique follows him around like a sick puppy, giving us the perfect illustration of his effect on women and their willingness to be spat on while in or out of a relationship with him. At a discotheque he falls under the bewitching spell of Nelly (Isabelle Huppert), a married woman from an upscale background who's been followed to the club by her husband Andre (Guy Marchand). As he watches her dance and flirt with Loulou, he comes to the conclusion that she needs to be outed as a tramp in public. Following his verbal and physical abuse, Nelly decides to start her first extramarital affair with Loulou.

Like most affairs, the secret comes out rather quickly, and Nelly and Andre separate rather disgracefully. However, Andre is fixated on pursuing the unattainable, as if the best things in life as those which you cannot have. Since he's still madly in love with Nelly, he grants the new couple his well-wishes and asks her to keep her job working for his advertisement company. It's clear that he hopes his stability and success will drive her away from Loulou, who he sees as an unemployed buffoon. They try to maintain an amicable friendship, knowing very well that it's a terrible idea. In time Nelly tells both men that she's expecting a baby. Andre thinks that she's making a foolish mistake by planning to start a family with a jobless brute, while Loulou is overjoyed with the news. For once in his life he anticipates getting a job and doing something “right.” The three of them continue to grow bitter and restless in their bizarre love triangle until it becomes clear that Nelly will have to change her ways drastically and make the most important decision of her otherwise privileged life.

Depardieu is always charming on the screen, but it’s safe to say that he's a method actor. In just about every film I've ever seen him in he's either a lover or a fighter, but always the kind of person who goes through life as if they've got nothing to lose. I knew what to expect from his character, and I was neither disappointed nor deeply moved. To be fair, there were moments throughout the film, especially towards the end, where I felt as though there was a little extra effort put forth. Huppert, on the other hand, is always a powerhouse. Francois Ozon, Claude Chabrol, Michael Haneke and many other wonderful directors have used her in their work and with outstanding results. Regardless of the point in her career, she always manages to keep me completely transfixed. Her performances always seem to have this eerie pull to them, and although Pialat considered many actresses for the role before meeting her, the film just wouldn't have been half as good without her. Though she was established as an actress by the time of the film's production, she was still quite young in the film and as breathtakingly gorgeous as she is now at 58. The supporting roles were also very complimentary, and the chemistry between all of the performers as a whole really made you feel like a close acquaintance to every character. I recommend it to those who are fans of Depardieu and Huppert, or those who wish to see something good by the director, Maurice Pialat, whose work is not very accessible here in the U.S.
Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Sep 9, 2011 5:02pm
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