Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nous ne viellirons pas ensemble

1972, France, directed by Maurice Pialat

By all accounts, including his own, Pialat was a tough man to live with, but as a filmmaker I'm increasingly convinced that he's one of the most important figures of the past 40-50 years. Unlike in his previous films, Pialat was working with major film stars here but the transition is seamless, and he extracts a performance of exceptional complexity and humanity from Jean Yanne, 
despite the character's overtly boorish aspects. Indeed, it's rare to see an actor embrace an unsympathetic part quite so fully: one scene of physical abuse is the more distressing for the sense that real people were hurt in the making. The filming process surely influenced Yanne's subsequent turn, at least in the films he made as a director, to a lighter register, quite a departure after a decade with Chabrol, Godard and Pialat. The rhythm of the film is beguiling despite the subject matter of an extended breakup: there's a sense of a pendulum swinging in ever smaller arcs as the inevitable outcome approaches, and yet there's no hint of the melodrama that often accompanies such a scenario. Indeed, the prevailing tone is one of deep melancholy, even tragedy for characters who struggle to communicate at the most fundamental level despite their constant verbal interactions. 

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States