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4.0
630 Ratings

The Mouth Agape

La gueule ouverte

Directed by Maurice Pialat
France, 1974
Drama

Synopsis

Monique is in the late stages of terminal illness. Her philandering, alcoholic husband Roger, her son Philippe, unfaithful like his father, and her daughter-in-law Nathalie (screen icon Nathalie Baye, in one of her earliest roles) gather around her. We observe them playing with life as she dies.

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The Mouth Agape Directed by Maurice Pialat
The film reaches an extraordinary climax early on when the mother, not yet infirm, vents recriminations about her husband at length to her increasingly exasperated son; this sets the tone for a narrative filled with angry outbursts, uncouth behavior, and surprisingly funny moments.
February 19, 2016
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Time is disarmingly fluid, pockmarked by events; his sequences alternate between desperate, tender and blackly comic modes, with D.P. Nestor Almendros’s typically immaculate exposures. The total effect is irreducible, with an impression less of Pialat’s desire to purge his own personal demons than to doggedly lay bare their contradictions. The theme of death as nature’s great equalizer has rarely been as tonally complex or bracingly observed.
October 21, 2015
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From shot to shot, one can observe a curious struggle going on between Pialat and his celebrated cinematographer, Nestor Almendros: while control over framing seems to be surrendered to the severe parti pris of Pialat, Almendros takes command of the light, producing and intensifying effects of ultra-iridescence, and of an increasingly bleached-out quality that marks the escalating stations to the woman’s death — a type of effect we find nowhere else in Pialat’s oeuvre.
October 13, 2015
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