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The Mother and the Whore (1973)
"La maman et la putain" (original title)

 |  Drama, Romance  |  17 May 1973 (France)
8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 3,069 users  
Reviews: 32 user | 34 critic

In Paris, the pedantic Alexandre lives with his mate Marie in her apartment, an open relationship. Alexandre, who is idle and chauvinist, spends his days reading, drinking and shagging ... See full summary »

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Title: The Mother and the Whore (1973)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Bernadette Lafont ...
...
Françoise Lebrun ...
Isabelle Weingarten ...
Gilberte
Jacques Renard ...
Alexandre's Friend
Jean-Noël Picq ...
Offenbach's Fan
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Storyline

In Paris, the pedantic Alexandre lives with his mate Marie in her apartment, an open relationship. Alexandre, who is idle and chauvinist, spends his days reading, drinking and shagging women. After flirting with his former affair, Gilberte, who tells him that she will marry soon her boyfriend, Alexandre meets the Laenne Hospital nurse Veronika Osterwald and they schedule a date. Alexandre learns that Veronika is a promiscuous woman that loves to shag and introduces her to Marie. They have a threesome and Alexandre has a crush on Veronika. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Drama | Romance

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17 May 1973 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Mother and the Whore  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jean Eustache wrote the role of Alexandre specifically for Jean-Pierre Leaud. See more »

Goofs

While reading the book of Gestapo at his friend's home, Alexandre is holding a cigarette in his right hand in the close-up. In the next shot he is only holding the book. See more »

Quotes

Alexandre: How do you want to make love? Tenderly, or violently?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Childstar (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Falling in Love Again
Written by Friedrich Hollaender with English lyrics by Samuel Lerner
Performed by Marlene Dietrich
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User Reviews

 
"In Paris, lovers have their own strange ways."
27 April 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In what could have been seen as a coup towards the sexual "revolution" (purposefully I use quotations for that word), Jean Eustache wrote and directed The Mother and the Whore as a poetic, damning critique of those who can't seem to get enough love. If there is a message to this film- and I'd hope that the message would come only after the fact of what else this Ben-Hur length feature has to offer- it's that in order to love, honestly, there has to be some level of happiness, of real truth. Is it possible to have two lovers? Some can try, but what is the outcome if no one can really have what they really want, or feel they can even express to say what they want?

What is the truth in the relationships that Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Leaud) has with the women around him? He's a twenty-something pseudo-intellectual, not with any seeming job and he lives off of a woman, Marie (Bernadette Lafont) slightly older than him and is usually, if not always, his lover, his last possible love-of-his-life left him, and then right away he picks up a woman he sees on the street, Veronika (Françoise Lebrun), who perhaps reminds him of her. Soon what unfolds is the most subtly torrid love triangle ever put on film, where the psychological strings are pulled with the cruelest words and the slightest of gestures. At first we think it might be all about what will happen to Alexandre, but we're mistaken. The women are so essential to this question of love and sex that they have to be around, talking on and on, for something to sink in.

We're told that part of the sexual revolution, in theory if not entirely in practice (perhaps it was, I can't say having not been alive in the period to see it first-hand), was that freedom led to a lack of inhibitions. But Eustache's point, if not entirely message, is that it's practically impossible to have it both ways: you can't have people love you and expect to get the satisfaction of ultimate companionship that arrives with "f***ing", as the characters refer over and over again.

The Mother and the Whore's strengths as far as having the theme is expressing this dread beneath the promiscuity, the lack of monogamy, while also stimulating the intellect in the talkiest talk you've ever seen in a movie. At the same time we see a character like Alexandre, who probably loves to hear himself talk whether it's about some movie he saw or something bad from his past, Eustache makes it so that the film itself isn't pretentious- though it could appear to be- but that it's about pretentiousness, what lies beneath those who are covering up for their internal flaws, what they need to use when they're ultimately alone in the morning.

If you thought films like Before Sunrise/Sunset were talky relationship flicks, you haven't met this. But as Eustache revels in the dialogs these characters have, sometimes trivial, or 'deep', or sexual, or frank, or occasionally extremely (or in a subdued manner) emotional, it's never, ever uninteresting or boring. On the contrary, for those who can't get enough of a *good* talky film, it's exceptional. While his style doesn't call out to the audaciousness that came with his forerunners in the nouvelle vague a dozen years beforehand, Eustache's new-wave touch is with the characters, and then reverberating on them.

This is realism with a spike of attitude, with things at time scathing and sarcastic, crude and without shame in expression. All three of the actors are so glued to their characters that we can't ever perceive them as 'faking' an emotion or going at all into melodrama. It's almost TOO good in naturalistic/realism terms, but for Eustache's material there is no other way around it. Luckily Leaud delivers the crowning chip of his career of the period, and both ladies, particularly Labrun as the "whore" Veronika (a claim she staggeringly refutes in the film's climax of sorts in one unbroken shot). And, as another touch, every so often, the director will dip into a quiet moment of thought, of a character sitting by themselves, listening to a record, and in contemplation or quiet agony. This is probably the biggest influence on Jim Jarmusch, who dedicated his film Broken Flowers to Eustache and has one scene in particular that is lifted completely (and lovingly) in approach from the late Parisian.

Sad to say, before I saw Broken Flowers, I never heard of Eustache or this film, and procuring it has become quite a challenge (not available on US DVD, and on VHS so rare it took many months of tracking at various libraries). Not a minute of that time was wasted; the Mother and the Whore is truly beautiful work, one of the best of French relationship dramas, maybe even just one of the most staggeringly lucid I've seen from the country in general. It's complex, it's sweet, it's cold, it's absorbing, and it's very long, perhaps too long. It's also satisfying on the kind of level that I'd compare to Scenes from a Marriage; true revelations about the human condition continue to arise 35 years after each film's release.


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