The Lovers (1958)

Dave Blakeslee helpfully reminds us that Louis Malle’s second film was the cause of a major stink, not just in its native France but even in America (at a time when the latter country was about to confront various trials over obscene literature). Helpful because I probably wouldn’t have got the fuss had I come cold to the film, most of which seemed to centre on the last third of the film where OH MY GOD THOSE PEOPLE ARE FUCKING… or at least they were within the parameters of what even 1950s European cinema would show. Dave also offers the theory that what really caused the outrage wasn’t the woman abandoning her husband, it was her abandoning their child as well, not to mention the fact that she gets away with it; Malle ends the story where others might have barely started or at least only got part of the way through it, and leaves us with only a hint that things might not work out. I think the story’s more interesting strategy is to try and throw us a bit of a red herring about who the titular lovers are; we know one is Jeanne Moreau’s frustrated provincial bourgeois housewife, but the likely man turns out not to be the one (and gets amusingly told off for acting like her husband near the end when he finds he’s lost her too). Again, though, like the last film, it’s all kind of dull, and as in the last film Moreau fares best (as does cinematographer Henri Decae, working in Scope this time), she’s pretty good at doing this sort of melancholy woman living something of an inauthentic life, but somehow there’s still something not particularly interesting about the whole affair, apart maybe from the offscreen censorship shenanigans.

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