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This art film has no conventional dialog between the main characters. This tells a strangely compelling story of two women in a suburban home who are listening to radio news broadcasts about a missing child in their area.
Cet Amour-là is an intimate portrait of a legendary love affair. Set against the beauty of the Breton seaside, it is also a film that revels in the insights that Marguerite Duras' writing affords. Written by
Only France I suspect could produce a fascinating, self-absorbed, libertine, brilliant woman intellectual like Marguerite Duras whose long relationship with a very young and callow Yann Andrea is the subject of director Josee Dayan's "Cet Amour-la."
Born in 1914 in a Vietnam firmly under French control, the young Duras absorbed the often silent influences of the lush and exotic land that she often referenced, in writing and conversation, during her very long life in France. Her first important writings came out during World War II, a difficult time for Duras and her family under the German occupation that saw relatives incarcerated in concentration camps including her husband. He survived - others didn't.
Hardly surprisingly, Duras - always committed to examining social issues - flirted with and joined the French communist party after her country was liberated by the U.S. With a few other intellectuals who brought a brilliant honesty to their view of life she abandoned the false prophets after about five years. She always, however, mirrored issues of social justice through the prism of her writings which largely reflected her own experiences and values.
The belle of a postwar literary establishment that offered avant-garde writing to a country that in two world wars had seen demographic decimation and international humiliation, Duras tackled every theme and every subject while pursuing a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle (including a very celebrated menage-a-trois). By the time she met Yann, such exploits were interred in the mists of her memory.
Based on Yann Andrea's novel, the film starts with his meeting Duras after long writing to her, poetically expressing his admiration (and, undoubtedly, ambition to follow in her literary footsteps). Played by Aymeric Demarigny, the young (in his twenties) Yann is invited to Duras's apartment by the seaside.
A mutual attraction develops as Duras, in a role only Jeanne Moreau could bring to life, accepts the young man as her muse, amanuensis and lover. He moves in. As a couple, they argue, make up and often engage in whimsical pursuits (her attempt to teach him to drive, for example) in which the generational gap melts away. This was no short relationship - the couple was together from 1980 to Duras's 1986 death.
In the film and perhaps in real life (this is, after all, the surviving lover's tale of a relationship of near mythical proportions in literary circles) Yann brings certain gifts that spur the aging author's writing. Unfortunately he also brings bottles of red wine which set the alcoholic Duras back into the drinking she apparently had escaped from earlier.
An affair between a woman in her eighth decade and a man in his third - an American film would highlight exploitation, perhaps sex served up as bizarre. With actresses in their thirties now appealing to directors to find roles for "older" women it's doubtful many film makers here could portray a relationship such as Yann and Duras's with unflinching honesty, subordinating the sexual aspects to the more interesting core interdependence that Jeanne Moreau gives life to here.
Demarigny's excellent portrayal notwithstanding, this is Moreau's film, a triumphant demonstration of the depths of her acting AND a statement about her own innate vitality and sexuality. She must care deeply about Duras.
A slow moving film that will reward second viewings, it isn't for everyone. Duras isn't that widely read in the U.S. and I suspect many won't even recognize her name. Still, the intimate and often rambunctious Duras/Andrea relationship can stand independent of any knowledge of the protagonists' real lives.
Nicely filmed in a verdant France.
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