Georges Menessier, a 45-year-old celebrity press writer, smuggles into a mental hospital to take pictures of...his ex-wife Clara Noël, once a great film star now confined to this clinic for... See full summary »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Serge Menessier
Ewa Swann ...
Clo
...
Clara Noël
...
Cécile Menessier
Jean-Claude Michel ...
Georges
Maurice Garrel ...
Le docteur Auger
...
Photographe
...
L'acteur
Philippe Mareuil
Serge Sauvion ...
Photographe
Yves Gabrielli
Jean-Henri Chambois
Danielle Palmero ...
(as Danièle Palmero)
Gisèle Grandpré
Danielle Kuffler
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Storyline

Georges Menessier, a 45-year-old celebrity press writer, smuggles into a mental hospital to take pictures of...his ex-wife Clara Noël, once a great film star now confined to this clinic for alcoholism and nervous trouble. Once inside the place he meets Clo, a beautiful twenty-year-old woman, another inmate. They fall in love but madness is synonymous with tragedy not happiness... Written by Guy Bellinger

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Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

24 April 1970 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Follia dei sensi  »

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, ,  »
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(Eastmancolor)
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User Reviews

 
A mad film, from a forgotten master
4 January 2011 | by (New York, New York) – See all my reviews

LE GRAND MEAULNES by Jean-Gabriel Albicocco has always been a favorite film for me, and highly influential on my tastes in cinema. This subsequent effort from the director is an obvious failure, but fascinating nonetheless.

Albicocco was the supreme stylist and visual innovator of the '60s, combining wide angle lenses, all manner of visual distortion (coating lenses with Vaseline, using cloth to diffuse the light, etc.), with wild tracking shots and other avant-garde approaches unseen in mainstream cinema. Like his operatic counterpart Miklos Jancso, he was creating an entirely different way of making films, but neither of their work caught on with other directors (except perhaps a minimalist version in the movies of Theo Angelopoulos). I can easily imagine a parallel world where they would be at the center of cinema, rather than the extreme fringes.

With a period romance like MEAULNES, Albicocco's odd techniques fit and went down easy with Continental audiences way back when. However, for a contemporary piece like MAD HEART, the once-innovative gimmicks come off as affectations, detracting from an already "out there" story.

Michel Auclair is solid as a rock as the protagonist, a journalist who becomes infatuated with pyromaniac nutcase Ewa Swann, helping her escape from the nut house where his mom (Madeleine Robinson, forceful in a one-scene "faded violet" turn) is also incarcerated.

Rest of the film is the ultra-romantic couple on the run tale, always appealing to me, dating back to perhaps its best incarnation, Nick Ray's THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. A summary of the freaky incidents Albicocco depicts cannot due them justice, as his operatic style is one visual tour de force scene after another, but suffice it to say that pyromania reigns supreme, and the clash of free spirits with bourgeois society, latter represented by Auclair's buddies and ex-wife, is the main theme here. There is an abiding hatred for paparazzi -maybe George Clooney or Sean Penn could identify with this film and attempt a (hard to imagine it possible) remake.

Film climaxes in a Ruby Ridge style confrontation with the gendarmes which is unconvincing, but the highly romantic, nihilistic and anti-crowd pleaser finish I found quite moving. I'm sure festival audiences back in '70 or '71 were hissing instead -their loss.

Coincidentally, Swann previously co-starred for Miklos Jancso in his excellent (and also forgotten) WINTER WIND, and she went on to star in cult maestro Claude Mulot's THE CONTRACT. I saw THE CONTRACT as a dubbed-in-English action movie back in Cleveland in the '70s, and it too is a worthwhile picture. Swann never made it in the movie business, but is an impressive force of nature here.

The great character actor Michel Auclair takes a rare leading role and was an inspired choice. He is a subtle performer, never giving in to the nutty flights of fancy of the director. One could well imagine a more goof-ball thesp, say a Timothy Carey or Nic Cage, hamming it up miserably in the role.

Photography by J-G's dad Quinto Albicocco is spectacular as always.


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