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In an interwar France struggling with profound social and political change, 18-year-old Violette Noziere rebels against the constraints of her claustrophobic, working-class (and possibly incestuous) family, with troubling consequences.
I saw this movie three or four times when it came out. That was almost thirty years ago, but I remember it pretty clearly. It is a careful and sympathetic character study/biography of an actual young woman named Aloise, who was born about 1900.
It starts off in the dark, at night, with voices of young girls talking, sisters. Aloise says she would like the name Lulu for all the U's.
I didn't know what it meant at the time, but now I can see it meant she wished she were someone else. She was a gentle, artistic woman with a mind divided over many things.
There are various stresses in her life as she grows up; she is happiest when she is singing and when she is taking care of children, as a nanny. There is a beautiful scene in the park with the children, the last scene before the war breaks out. It starts to rain at the end of the scene, and, since I was in college, I recognized this as an allegory of the coming storm of the war.
When the war breaks out, it puts tremendous stresses on her psychologically.
She is a very gentle and empathetic person. None of us enjoy war, I'd guess, at least not most of us when we stop to think about what goes on. But it was just awfully hard on her. In a similar vein, the American poet Denise Levertov told me in the 1980's she was unable to write for a period because of the horrors America was supporting in El Salvador. War affects Aloise the same way.
I found it engrossing. It was stylish and beautiful. It was the first foreign film I saw over and over; the pacing and perspective were Western, but definitely not American. It was much slower and more delicate than an American film.
I was hooked.
I would very much like to see it again, and highly recommend it.
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