Sublime: Loulou

Loulou (1980)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Arlette Langmann, Maurice Pialat
Produced by Yves Gasser, Klaus Hellwig, Yves Peyrot
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand, Humbert Balsan, Gérald Garnier, Frédérique Cerbonnet, Christian Boucher, Bernard Tronczak, Jacqueline Dufranne
To a scruffy, eleemosynary loafer (Depardieu) for whom a secretary’s (Huppert) left her stodgily responsible employer (Marchand) of three secure years, she’s as much the amatorious world as he’s to her, but while true love’s the bond begirting them, their temerariousness redounds to misery. Pialat’s and Langmann’s sweethearts are so incandescently alive, endowed with their own pique and adoration, and perfectly, plausibly played by Huppert and Depardieu, as reliant as their characters on charms of nice gestures. Not so penetrating as but more autobiographic than their chef-d’oeuvre À nos amours, this precursory picture finds Pialat and Langmann as astutely aware of relational oddity, philia presented as an unfortunate catalyst for associative anguish, and in its transition subject not to clean abruption so much as dretching decrement in rebound and tragic error.
Recommended for a double feature paired with À nos amours.

Favorites: À nos amours

À nos amours (1983)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Arlette Langmann, Maurice Pialat
Produced by Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Emmanuel Schlumberger, Micheline Pialat
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Maurice Pialat, Dominique Besnehard, Evelyne Ker, Cyr Boitard, Tsilka Theodorou, Christophe Odent, Pierre-Loup Rajot, Cyril Collard, Pierre Novion, Jacques Fieschi, Valérie Schlumberger
As a paradigm of pulchritude and conduit for the exhaust of her disintegrating Polish-Parisian clan’s explosive acrimony, a subtle yet sluttish teen (Bonnaire) seeks in every man and boy she beds the imago of her charismatically choleric father (Pialat), a practiced furrier whose frustrations inhere and aspirations have been intrusted to his nympholeptic and emotively exhausted wife (Ker), and son (Besnehard) whose emergent auctorial talent is a source of both pride and concern. Still cherry-picking all the choicest haecceities of France’s cinematic perfectionists and the nouvelle vague who ostracized them, Pialat cultivated for this masterwork the esprit of brilliantly naturalistic, frequently improvised portrayals, and ambiences of stirring verisimilitude in lingering shots that bare the essence of personality while communicating and evoking the quiet excitement anticipating defloration, warm mutuality of parental and filial affection, the afterglow of amative coitus, suggestive silences at least as expressive as speech, bodily contours of sensuous immanence, yearning for inamorati absent, stinging spurns, their attendant heartbreak, and love shipwrecked on shores of caprice, all predicated upon Langmann’s autobiographical substratum, itself personalized repeatedly to befit the handsome novices dominating the cast. From her very first shot, Bonnaire’s as mesmerizing as she’s ever been since as much for her alluringly crude beauty as the instinctive and unpolished interpretation of her alternately estranged and enamored jilt, whose venturous individuality and lubricious whims leave in her wake a trail of misery — yet even at her most dallyingly detestable, an evident regret unveils a vulnerability as profound as those of her scorned swains. Her father’s imprudent yet inevitable abandonment of his nuclear household merely exacerbates and expedites its inhabitants’ dissolution: squabbles between mother and daughter erupt to magnify into altercations for which the latter’s beaten by her burdened brother in confused emulation of their extravagating patriarch. Worse, the most beautiful and ardent of her lovers (Boitard) finds himself scathingly shunned, the target of umbrage intended for the papa to whom his is the most striking semblance. His painterly background’s patefied in Pialat’s craftsmanship of lapidary precision enlivened but never misdirected by ad-lib inspiration; every scene’s painstakingly composed yet executed with such degage grace that their implications and exactitude may be overlooked during an initial viewing, always concluding satisfactorily (often sans resolution) to an unhurried pace that seems to elapse with sudden rapidity. Never was his extemporary genius so masterfully manifest as in a late postprandial scene, where his unbidden dad suddenly confronts and subjects his cognate family and new in-laws to condign, understated analysis and censure in a sequence as remarkable for its filmmaker’s unscripted sapience as for the spontaneous skill exhibited by the tyros in his charge, who respond in genuine astonishment without momentarily breaking character. Clearly, Pialat was as disinclined to append any tidy conclusion as to script rapprochement between his recriminative characters, if only to emphasize how the worst sinners among them are those most sympathetic, and that dysfunction and passion converge to people who can’t perforce be assessed at a glance…or a lifetime’s scrutiny.

Palatable: Police

Police (1985)
Directed by Maurice Pialat
Written by Catherine Breillat, Maurice Pialat, Sylvie Pialat, Jacques Fieschi
Produced by Emmanuel Schlumberger, Daniel Toscan du Plantier
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Richard Anconina, Jonathan Leïna, Sandrine Bonnaire, Franck Karoui, Pascale Rocard, Jacques Mathou
Depardieu registers far more of his characteristic charm than brutish menace as a gregarious, obtrusive inspector who falls as hard as concrete for the coolly opportunistic girlfriend (Marceau) of a Tunisian narcotics smuggler (Leïna) plying a dicey, lucrative trade with his four brothers. With DP Luciano Tovoli, Pialat beautifully presents a photogenic cast from whom he elicits prime performances, especially his superstar leads and fresh, fledgling Bonnaire as a friendly fille de joie whose kindly temperament is apposed in contrast to the shrewd stratagems of Marceau’s uncaring layabout, or a personable criminal lawyer (Anconina) who mixes with flics and felons alike to exploit both with unexpectedly treacherous consequences. Breillat later explored similar characters and scenarios in Dirty Like an Angel to reveal vulnerability beneath the tough superfices of interrogation and procedure that excite lovesick and callous idiosyncrasies proceeding from privation, but this collaboration with Pialat also postulates that neither French police nor the Arab criminals they pursued during the Fifth Republic’s zenith were either as detestable or reasonable as most might expect.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Dirty Like an Angel.