Thursday 17 July 2014

The Mother and the Whore

I blogged last year about the great French actress Bernadette Lafont and what is in my view her best film, Jean Eustache's La maman et la putain (The Mother and the Whore). I said this:

It's a harrowing movie, set in and shot during the summer of 1972, exploring the unstructured and selfish lives of three youngish people in Paris. It's a love triangle, of sorts, with the self-absorbed Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud, perfectly cast) involved with his older girlfriend Marie (Lafont) and a Polish nurse Veronika (Françoise Lebrun). 

It's a film that defies summary and easy analysis because there's no plot to speak of, just an accumulating series of lengthy meandering scenes that peter out without resolution, accompanied by huge amounts of dialogue. It's like life, in other words, and there's no better depiction of how things were in the 1970s for many of us. One aspect of the way we lived then, and easy to overlook, is that none of the characters possess any furniture. They live on floors, on mattresses or beanbags or cushions until one minor character (played as I recall by the director himself) somehow acquires a wheelchair. 

Well here's that selfsame wheelchair scene for your viewing pleasure.

And here's a charming clip of the very young Jean-Pierre Léaud in his screen test for François Truffaut's Les 400 Coups.  He's 70 now, unbelievably.

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