La gueule ouverte (1974)

I don’t know exactly why I thought Maurice Pialat is a director I should explore, but when I chanced upon this recently at Lawson’s I picked it up. Don’t know if this is the ideal beginner’s work of his or not, but it was cheaper than the ones I’ve seen at Abbey’s and Title, so. I’m still feeling a bit weird after it, listening to the metal show on 2SER while I’m writing this review and feeling kind of… disrespectful or something for doing so. The cumulative effect of the film is kind of like that; once it was over I kind of felt unsure of what to do next. It’s a hugely difficult watch, which contains literally a single glimmer of humour (if you want to call a father and son threatening to beat the shit out of each other during a hospital visit “humour”); the film’s Wiki entry notes that it was Pialat’s least commercially successful film, which did make me laugh at the thought that a film about a woman dying of an indeterminate illness and about how her family (her pathetic womanising husband and her frankly not much better son) breaks down around her could have been anything else… I see the word “unsentimental” bandied around about Pialat, but “ruthless” strikes me as more like it; in its own quiet way (and it really isn’t a big demonstrative work) this is truly brutal stuff. Needless to say it’s not even remotely enjoyable by any conventional understanding of that word, and I’m not even sure it’s a film you can even say that you like as such—certainly I’m not sure I do—and yet it does have some remarkable quality (as I said, maybe the cumulative effect of the whole thing), and it possesses an astounding feeling of exactly capturing something real happening, that what we see in the film is precisely what could happen in a similar real life situation. Shall explore Pialat further.

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