Hard to believe this work when unrecognized for so long and that it's initial reaction was that the film didn't entirely work and maybe in the 70's I could understand but today the surrealism and childlike playfulness feels way more fluid than the headiness you get with a David Lynch knockoff. Malle's use of animal imagery is particularly skillful. "Dreamlike" is thrown around a lot but this film nails it down.
Cathryn Harrison is on point as the ephebophiliac pin-up protagonist caught between "Little Joe" and a unicorn in this Louis Malle allegory/sexual awakening concoction. Here, the line between fantastic and ludicrous becomes blurred at times, but the sensual tension (which is the film's common language), is consistent thanks in part to Sven Nykvist's color lighting as well as Cathryn Harrison's energetic performance.
This is how I like my fantasy. Surrealist. No much special effects. Looks and is sold by it's actors and director as completely real. I love to fall into the dream logic of this film and try to crack the uncrackable metaphors. The lead actress does a lot with very little dialogue and completely sell herself in this situation, a very tricky role pulled well either by a mix of talent and/or manipulation by Malle.
The war between men and women keeps breaking out, and so do the pigs, the children, and the flowers; the unicorn is a hypocrite, and beauty is only an invitation to snakes to climb up your skirt. No one isn't Lilith, except perhaps for Lily, reduced in the end to the role of wet nurse to dying earth mothers and fraudulent icons of purity or virility -- which is to say, I suppose, that she grows up. The moon is down.