M comme Mathieu
- 1h 40m
Mathieu is collected from the hospital by his wife, and dropped of at an apartment. His wife returns home to their son. The next time she sees him, he confesses that he is in love with anoth... Read allMathieu is collected from the hospital by his wife, and dropped of at an apartment. His wife returns home to their son. The next time she sees him, he confesses that he is in love with another woman. This woman, who is identical to his wife, visits him. After making love, she lea... Read allMathieu is collected from the hospital by his wife, and dropped of at an apartment. His wife returns home to their son. The next time she sees him, he confesses that he is in love with another woman. This woman, who is identical to his wife, visits him. After making love, she leaves. She then returns. Mathieu shoots her - or does he shoot a mirror?
Filmmaker Jean-Francois Adam is unknown here in America, as none of his films were ever released here in any format. Having worked for New Wave directors like Varda, Robert Enrico and Truffaut, he shot only 3 pictures in the '70s before committing suicide. I've recently watched the first and last of his features and would love to find out more about the auteur behind them.
MATHIEU was apparently shot in 1970, but not released in France till three years later. It is bookended by a scene of Sami as Mathieu, released from a mental hospital to the custody of his beautiful wife Jeanne (Brigitte Fossey). His life on the outside is depicted as extremely lonely, dining alone in cafés (clearly not enjoying his food, reflecting symptoms of depression), sitting in his extremely bare room, or having encounters with his wife, his neighbor (enigmatically played by Roland Dubillard) or a casual acquaintance in a café (the always enigmatic Bulle Ogier).
I keep using "enigmatic" in my descriptions because while the narrative unfolds logically for the most part, J-F Adam is clearly working within the complex memory-laden structure pioneered by Alain Resnais. An homage is the appearance of Muriel (a famous Resnais film title) as Fossey portrays a dual role, one of several doppelgangers in the narrative. The title refers not merely to Frey's character, but his young son also named Mathieu, who at one point he threatens to shoot with a gun he's purchased -a very cryptic scene that reflects not only daddy's mental imbalance but also the "is it really happening?" nature of many scenes, especially towards the end of the picture. The final series of sequences are open to many different interpretations, putting J-F Adam's work squarely into the now-fashionable Chris Nolan story structure milieu.
Grounding this fever-dream in reality is the no-nonsense photography of Pierre Lhomme, who had previously lensed Jean-Pierre Melville's classic SHADOW ARMY for which J-F Adam was assistant director. Like so many new-wavers, J-F Adam is heavily influenced by Melville's work, and Frey at times suggests a warmer but no less alienated figure in his white trench coat as Alain Delon created as Melville's favorite archetype. Fossey, one of my all-time French faves, is beautiful in the all-together in both roles here, and casting Ogier was yet another doubling, since she could easily have traded assignments with Fossey on a flip of a coin.
The white-raincoat motif reappears worn by Jacques Dutronc in Adam's final movie, RETOUR A LA BIEN-AIMEE, a less invigorating, more static movie that I'm guessing reflects J-F Adam's legit theater background. His middle film, LE JEU DU SOLITAIRE, is currently unavailable, period, but I'll keep hunting for that one to complete the trifecta of this worthwhile, unjustly forgotten filmmaker.
- Oct 4, 2010