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How many film-makers make their greatest masterpiece as their last film? Not many, but to that select list, add Claude Sautet. Nelly & M. Arnaud is exquisite.
It is cinema.
This is to say that, in common with most truly and unquestionably great films, it could not exist with such power in any other art. The most difficult and also the most wonderful films are the films that take place, primarily in their character's hearts. It was not important what Charles Foster Kane *did*, but what he felt. In this film too, we experience the primacy of human feelings.
We do this through two luminous performances that reveal just how coarse is the acting that we habitually see in block-buster movies. One of the many deep emotions that overcame me when I first saw this film was that sheer privilege to see such acting.
To see the very gradual, subtle and beautiful love that develops between the two central characters is to get a glimpse of heaven. A film, then, not of love, but the possibility of love, and a warning without didacticism that we all should grasp love if we are given the opportunity.
Perhaps the greatest joy of cinema is its ability to allow us to experience rare emotion. This wonderful, wonderful film does that in an effortless way, without sentimentality, and for that we should be eternally grateful. Thank you M. Sautet, wherever you may be.
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