wasnt godard upper class? and truffaut lower?
Christopher, you are eloquent. And, in hindsight, one might say that Malle was part of the cultural explosion that was created by the New Wave. However, all I am saying is, at the time, Malle was not considered an official member of the official New Wave. I remember this.
i’ve always admired louis malle. i think he made the kind of films that you can watch several times & see something completely new at every viewing.
Love this guy, he even did great work in english (Atlantic City, My Dinner with Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street,). I am patiently awaiting DVD’s of Zazie dans le Metro (which is fantastic) and Milou en Mai (which I still have not seen).
I haven’t seen much, but I think “Au Revoir Les Enfants” is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen. It’s beautiful in story mainly, but also in the way it’s shot.
At first, I perceived Malle as unfocused or even trivial. I think it’s true what others have said about him not having an easily unifiable body of work: it is hard to classify the guy and most of critical theory or academic study revolves around this very act. He is hard to pin down.
Man, was I surprised when I began exploring his works. How wrong I was. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This guy is fantastic. His interviews (if you’re lucky enough to see some scattered throughout some Criterion special features) only confirm this. He brings something special to each film, which is quite an accomplishment if you consider the differing genres, stories, characters (worlds, really) he has explored.
See as much of him as you can.
Malle was a genius!!! He has such a strong collection of films that all vary in style within groups of two or three, it’s as though he needed to test the waters with at least two films of each vision he had. I just see blocks of similar excursions in his career.eg. Elevator to the Gallows, The Lovers, The Fire Within/ Murmur of the Heart, Lacombe, Lucien, Au Revoir Les Enfants/ Calcutta, Phantom India/ My Dinner with Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street/ his documentaries Vive Le Tour, God’s Country, … And the Pursuit of Happiness. It was clear how much he loved film by the various projects he took on. He’s one of the more enjoyable directors to really discover, his films are mysterious in the sense that you feel his presence but always in strange unsure ways; a rabbit hole that just keeps getting darker and darker.
The thing about Malle is he never let himself get restricted by a certain formula he may have cultivated over his earlier years as a filmmaker. Each film of his approaches story and characters relatively the same, but the means in which he went about it always varied, and yet, always achieved greatness. His short run as a “New Wave” associated director didn’t last long because while Godard or Truffaut continued to make a long string of great films that followed similar narrative and style as not only the films that preceded them by their respected directors, but also that of peers’, Malle was taking quite different paths. This is an admirable trait, for Malle isn’t alone in the history of cinema to do such a thing. And it seems that more directors now are not keeping to a strict formula, but challenging themselves. I don’t mean to say Godard or Truffaut didn’t, but it certainly took them longer to start branching out of their 60s New Wave aesthetic, while I feel Malle was already differentiating himself with The Fire Within, which was in 1963.
i dont know much about malle’s career, but i find it hard to believe the idea that he may have taken more paths or branched out more than godard.
God’s Country: watch at the end and remind yourself – that was1986 – so prophetic I get the chills just thinking about it
@ Bobby Wise, I should have said it clearer… paths as in during the 60s. Godard’s 60s films for me all had the same atmosphere to them. That whole delirious, pop-art feel.
@ Robert W Peabody III, God’s Country was a great documentary.
I haven’t seen too much of his work (Elevator to the Gallows, Damage, The Lovers, Fire Within, Lacome, Lucien, Au revoir les enfants) but he is one of my favorites. I haven’t seen his documentaries yet but I’m dying to. Au revoir les enfants and Elevator are my favorites so far. Au revoir les enfants is so touching and made me cry for hours; his most personal film in my opinion, more so than Fire Within. Malle was very bold and not afraid to push boundaries. Like Lacombe, Lucien, a very interesting and brave film. He dared to make a film about cooperating with Germans and I really respect him for that. Same with The Lovers, the content of that film was very controversial at that time but he wasn’t afraid to make it. I’m anxiously waiting for Phantom India, My Dinner With Andre, and Zazie dans le métro. Can’t wait to see them.
Malle is amongst my all-time favorite directors, and I agree with the comments regarding his diversity, technical skill and particularly, his mode of subtle storytelling. All of which cements him as one of the greatest and original filmmakers ever. However, does anyone prefer his films about his native France to his forays into Hollywood?
For example, I found ‘Pretty Baby’ extremely disappointing in that it lacked structure and character development. And also, for such a promising, interesting premise , it was quite a boring film to watch. And the more I watch ‘My Dinner with Andre’ the more the acting and script irritates me, I simply don’t understand why something like this should warrant the cinematic treatment. It offers very little real insight, just two pathetic middle-aged men who we are led to believe had some sort of monopoly on the unspoken cultural etiquette and human psyche of Western society. I saw none of the honesty and vulnerability of Malle’s earlier work here, just pretentiousness.
And also, does anyone know what methods he used to direct his actors? It just seems like he always manages to extract the most natural of performances… particularly, I’m referring here to Benoît Ferreux in ‘Murmur of the Heart’ and Pierre Blaise from Lacombe Lucien.
the moment in pretty baby where brooke shields is getting picked up by her reformed mom and she looks to the photographer and asks, “why cant he come with is?” its heartbreakering
If there is such thing as an underrated director,
it is Louis Malle.
Absolutely True, Peabody. “Underrated” ( and “overrated”) gets thrown around too much on here, and I am as guilty as others, but Louis Malle really is the definition of underrated, because you simply can’t pigeonhole him; he’s doesn’t easily fit the classic auteur definition, but he most certainly is one of the greatest of all. Hell, its hard to even describe, much less define his style, but he definitely has one. I think that he is just such a consummate craftsman, that his style, as it is, is almost invisible and works on a purely emotional level.
I think I have come to the conclusion that he is my favorite French filmmaker of all time; certainly the one that speaks to me most personally. His contemporaries of the New Wave variety just pale in comparison.
Anyway, I had to write about him because I finally got around to viewing AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS last night, and I was emotionally devastated by the experience (in a good way). The ending of the film was fairly predictable from a purely narrative point of view, you could see it coming right from the start, but the emotion of the moment completely snuck up on me, and I swear, I haven’t cried that much from a film in a very, very long time. Wow. THE FIRE WITHIN had a similar effect; you certainly knew how it was all going to end up, but how the power of the images and performances sneak up on you emotionally as it progresses is a whole other thing. It is just the mark of a director singularly gifted with actors, as well as with the camera. The parts towards the end where Maurice Ronet is exclaiming to all around that " I just can’t touch anything, you don’t understand how it is to not be able to actually touch anybody" (or something to that effect), are just the greatest single portrait of real genuine depression that I have ever seen and related to.
I also adore ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS as one of the most perfectly crated thrillers ever; it undoubtedly made Hitchcock a little jealous. And that score- goddamn, that Miles Davis score is inspired perfection. MURMUR OF THE HEART is a remarkable film for how tenderly it deals with a very troubled kid, and is also quite hilarious. THE LOVERS, is of course, a sensual beauty of a film.
I am in awe of the man and his craft. I need to see more obviously- any top recommendations?
R T Rolston. I highly recomend My Dinner With Andre. It may very well be Malle’s greatest masterpiece. It’s one of those rare films that might change you’re life.
Murmur of the Heart was the first Malle film I saw. i loved it. Loved the Charlie Parker soundtrack, the clear-eyed, light-hearted, open-minded view of the taboo subject. Great film. Malle has never let me down. His movies are always highly cultured, deeply intelligent, thoroughly entertaining.
In a word, I believe Malle was one of the best European film directors who ever lived. Sadly, he was over-shadowed by his contemporaries, Bergman and Fellini, and by his compatriot Godard. That’s unfortunate.
I can tell you a great deal about Malle – I was a corespondent in Paris during the 50s and 60s and reviewed a couple of his films for a major weekly American newsmagazine.
I won’t take much of your time here, however.
If you haven’t seen Malle, start with Souffle au Coeur (Murmurs of the Heart) , which most critics consider his very best effort.
It was a profoundly controversial film in France and, together with a couple of others things, it rather obligated Malle to leave his country and settle in the U.S . – thank God: here he did wonderfully, too. (“Rather obligated” is an opinion that not everyone would agree with.)
The film’s topic was incest – not a dreadfully cheery or palatable topic
After its release, theatres showing Souffle au Coeur were picketed throughout France, the Church damned it and parents forbade their kids to see it. All of which sold tickets, of course.
The story was strikingly original, the acting superb and the direction flawless.
If you don’t care to watch a beautiful fourteen-year old boy fucking his beautiful Italian mama, stay clear of Souffle au Coeur and go for Professor Gadget. Fortunately, Mama got to her son before the priest. (I am wonder if those scenes were chopped in the U.S. DVD.)
In most of his work, Malle dealt with the foibles and hypocrisy of the French haute bourgeoisie (upper middle-classes) and, indeed, that was his own environment: His father was a wealthy textile manufacturer in Northern France.
Malle despised the “nouvelle vague” – wanted nothing to do with it. Cinematically, historically and aesthetically, he was a classicist, and proud of it – this at a point in time when Godard and his colleagues were Page One news in the film world, in France and beyond.
His surrealist effort, Black Moon, was a commercial and aesthetic flop, but I enjoyed it. He said he “had” to make it, and that insight seems accurate – the film springs from the sub-conscious. He financed it himself, knowing very well it wouldn’t even earn its keep, least of all show a profit. Critics and audiences didn’t understand it, which is not to suggest that I did.
Another Malle masterpiece was set in a private, Catholic, boys’ boarding school and another dealt with a young Nazi, WW11 collaborator. That last one went down as badly with the French public as "Souffle au Coeur. " Malle was criticized for portraying the protagonist too sympathetically. Between that and “Souffle” Malle was made to feel very unwelcome in his own country, both by critics and audiences, and, prudently, he took off for Hollywood, New Orleans (“Pretty Baby”) and Atlantic City (“Atlantic City.”) I THINK he directed those, or was it Truffaut?
Malle’s talent was ubiquitous though I don’t believe he got the success he deserved, having been side-tracked by lesser directors.
There are very good biographies of him, mostly in French.
If I can tell you more, try email@example.com
I have seen MURMURS OF THE HEART, and of course it is wonderful. I doubt any other film could treat such strange incest so tenderly. It somehow works, completely.
You are welcome to take my time, Gordon, if you feel like it; right now, I feel I could read a book-long treatment of Malle. I agree he was too overshadowed in his time, and it seems like Criterion is doing a great job kind of retroactively correcting that in this country, to some extent. THE FIRE WITHIN is as darkly penetrating and disturbing as anything Bergman did (and I love Bergman, mind you…), and as far as I am concerned, he completely leaves his compatriots, Godard and Truffaut, et al, in the dust.
You might enjoy “Malle on Malle” and “The Films of Louis Malle: A Critical Analysis.”
I believe both are available in the U.S.
Even used copies are very expensive — near $100,, I think.
Au Revoir Les Enfants, Vanya on 42nd Street, Souffle au Coeur, and Ascenceur pour l’echafaud…………
knocked me out!
Over this past month I’ve been revisiting Malle, of whom I’d only seen My Dinner with Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street and Le Feu Follet prior. Along with seeing Andre again, so far I’ve watched Ascenceur pour l’Echafaud, Crazeologie, Zazie dans le Metro, Le Souffle au Coeur, Black Moon and Damage and my appreciation of him has steadily increased. While it’s been difficult for me to articulate just what I like about his work so far, exempting Zazie [which I appreciate more than like,] I suppose it’s his ability to empathise and be pitiless at the same time [to quote from the essay that came with, I believe, Souffle.] This, and perhaps combined with his documentary experience, I feel gives his work a mellow, even melancholic, quality. Of people trying to escape from or into something [family, love, society, conflict, etc.]
Soon I’ll be checking out the Eclipse set and look forward to seeing more of his documentarian side.
On another note, I just finished Damage a little while ago and overall I thought it was alright, but it felt very standard in comparison with everything else [even though, personally, I liked the ephemeral nineties atmosphere….] Are there any Malle fans who especially liked it and would care to give their perspective?
His docs are surprisingly great. Particularly Gods Country.
Definitely looking forward to that, kind of wish I could watch that back-to-back with Alamo Bay [don’t know why, but seems like they’d complement one another,] as well as And the Pursuit of Happiness….
Starting to finish up with the Documentary Eclipse set, plan on seeing God’s Country this evening then …And the Pursuit of Happiness tomorrow.
So far, Vive le Tour was pretty good, considering how short it was. Humain, Trop Humain I quite liked both for the rhythms of the assembly-line work, yet also the satircal edge of the showroom scenes. Overall it seemed both remiscient of other industrial symphonies like Westinghouse Works and Philips-Radio. Place de la Republique was wonderful, but then I have a weakness for films [fictional or non-fictional] which try to scratch the histories and experiences of people while simultaneously acknowledging the fleeting moment of interaction. Calcutta, though good, probably would have benefited had I waited until seeing the India series first, so I’ll refrain from commenting until I’ve rewatched it in the near future.
Phantom India, though, would be my personal highlight thus far. I took the title to have a potential dual meaning, suggesting both the country’s inherent disunity in it’s numerous subcultures [and thus only exists as ‘India’ as an abstract political entity,] yet also the outsider’s ability to, emotionally and spiritually, the land and it’s people as one, consistent experience. With the purported randomness of it’s images and the commentaries upon them, the series suggests something like automatic writing. A dialogue between what Malle and his crew sees and the thoughts inspired within by them.