With his raw style of filmmaking, Maurice Pialat has been called the John Cassavetes of French cinema, and the scorching À nos amours is one of his greatest achievements. In a revelatory film debut, the dynamic, fresh-faced Sandrine Bonnaire plays Suzanne, a fifteen-year-old Parisian who embarks on a sexual rampage in an effort to separate herself from her overbearing, beloved father (played with astonishing magnetism by Pialat himself), ineffectual mother, and brutish brother. A tender character study that can erupt in startling violence, À nos amours is one of the high-water marks of eighties French cinema. —The Criterion Collection
Once described as the true heir to Jean Renoir’s legacy, French filmmaker Maurice Pialat is noted for his brutal, insightful portraits of the less savory aspects of family life and French society, as well as for his ability to evoke unusually powerful and realistic performances from his actors regardless of their professional status. Pialat, who is known as one of his country’s more “difficult” directors due to both his subject matter and on-set clashes, was born in Puy-de-Dôme but raised in Paris after the age of three. He started out as a painter and jack-of-all-trades and did sporadic work as an actor. In the late ’50s, Pialat became fascinated with cinema, and he got his start making short films, notably Amour Existe (1961), which won a prize at the Venice Festival.
After spending much of the ‘60s working in French television, Pialat made his feature-film debut in 1968 with Naked Childhood, a cinema verité-style drama utilizing nonprofessional actors. A study… read more
Early on it seems that the entire film will take place over one year of Suzanne's life but before long there are entire months or years between scenes. For me this is the film's major flaw since we can't see how each character reacts to some major plot events and the film is robbed of all dramatic impact.
The way this starts makes it seem more a Rohmer: discontent adolescents, promiscuity abound, literary namedrops, seaside locations - à la Pialat’s Green Ray, or Pauline, or Summer’s Tale or something like it. My initial response: stick with the Rohmers; Pialat’s realism here, if not listless a match, then now benign. But it then finds more engaging footing away from the coastal settings and in the domestic unit. Its cogent stretches, while tending on the hysterical, bestow thoughtful, unnerving drama on conflicted youth. Pialat should’ve acted more often.
Suzanne's driven by the moment and trifles with love, but she's neither scheming nor naïve. This unique paradox overwhelms me and M. Pialat teaches the contemporary path to frame family and the interesection among its elements through raw and naked images as our access to life tells us so. Never an elliptical device showed so much effectiveness in the echoes of sex, violence and love of such handsome fauves!
The critic and filmmaker talks his wonderful new film, which opens in New York on March 1.
An end-of-2011 celebration not of new films but of old films revived and seen throughout the year. Ozu, Marilyn Monroe, Raoul Walsh, oh my!
In addition to its brilliant edition of Sous le soleil de Satan, March also sees Eureka!/MOC relelasing Pialat's À nos amours, which is perhaps
Co-winner of the César (the French Oscar) for Best Picture of 1983. That’s no guarantee of excellence.
A Bit of Plot…
Adolescent Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire, Monsieur Hire… read review