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The last picture:Philippe Leotard and Natalie Baye are leaving home
behind.He drives at a dizzying speed.Then the father,alone in his
deserted house,turns off the light.
The young couple thinks he can escape:it's not pleasant to stay in a house where one of your folks has just died.But actually,it's their OWN death which they fear ... Death is no more an abstract word (which concerns the others),it's something certain.
"La Gueule Ouverte" is Pialat's "Cries and Whispers" (both his film and Bergman's were released at about the same time).But "La Gueule Ouverte" is devoid of aestheticism: directing is icily remote,music is completely absent (with the exception of the scene when Monique Melinand is listening to Mozart's "Cosi Fan Tutte" ),no embellishment; nothing is spared the audience and the fact that such a harrowing screenplay succeeds artistically without falling into the trap of vulgarity or/and sentiment is entirely due to Pialat's natural feeling for economy and sparseness which preclude all forms of conventional sentimentality.
His characters are despicable persons,with the eventual exception of the mother who seems more educated (Pialat seems to indicate she must have suffered from the meanness of her family: the father and the son play around ,even when she is about to die ,the daughter-in-law tries and tries to show some compassion but she's finally completely indifferent.
Nothing was spared the audience indeed .The dying woman 's unbearable breathing -and the scene lasts three interminable minutes- ,the body placed in the coffin, the old man crying his heart out...
My two favorite Pialat movies are this one and "L'Enfance Nue" .The latter deals with the beginning of life ,of a harsh life whilst the former depicts an inhuman death.
The Center for Arts of my university is screening all of Pialat's movies this month. 'The mouth agape' is the eighth Pialat film that i've now seen (out of 10) and it is right up there, not only as one of his best along with Loulou, naked childhood, and Van Gogh, but as a striking work on the subject of death. We see an elderly housewife during her last days, who finally dies just when her pain and suffering compels even those who love her intensely, to wish for the dreaded moment to come fast. But the movie is more about how her disjointed family, comprising of a playboyish husband (who, even as an old man, cannot refrain from flirting with any and every woman he runs into), a son who's gone on his father's footsteps and daughter in law, who in a sense mirrors the lady's life. A young and lovely Nathalie Baye plays the daughter in law, and is one of the several stand out performances of the film. In short, death is a hard subject to make films on, but Pialat, with masterful touch, does so with unflinching realism, and the movie has several truly beautiful moments.
This is not the greatest film by Pialat, but is still far better than
most others of its time. It was his third feature, and the first set in
his native Auvergne. Monique, a woman in middle age, is slowly dying of
cancer, while her husband Roger tries to cope with his feelings of
desperation by chasing women. The scene with the girl trying on the
yellow pullover in Roger's store is marvelous: he feels her breasts
while she seems not very upset over this, or amused either. Philippe is
the only one of their children who is still around, and he seems to be
following his father in philandering. His marriage with Nathalie will
be a rocky one if he can't settle down. Nathalie herself is
intelligent, maybe a bit too much for Philippe.
Pialat takes such chances when he shoots a scene: see the opening with Monique and Philippe at home listening to Mozart and talking about family matters; it goes on almost ten minutes, dangerously long you might think, yet Pialat and the actors bring it off beautifully. Hubert Deschamps settles into his part so well, he hardly seems to be acting at all. Same for Monique Melinand and Philippe Leotard; only Nathalie Baye seems a little self-conscious at times. Nestor Almendros was the cinematographer, he had already worked with Truffaut and Rohmer. Pialat wanted available light whenever possible: this accounts for the occasional muddy moment in the film. Is La gueule ouverte available as a Region 1 DVD yet?--if not, why not?
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