Scandal and eroticism: this film that made a lot of ink flow back to the cinema – Actus Ciné

This film caused a scandal for its eroticism when it came out 64 years ago: Les Amants by Louis Malle, starring Jeanne Moreau, hits theaters this Wednesday. Behind the scenes of the confidential release of sulfur.

Jeanne Tournier, married to a press tycoon and mother of a little girl, is bored in her castle near Dijon. She often goes to Paris to visit her friend Maggy and her lover Raoul. A breakdown in her car makes her meet Bernard with whom she falls in love with her.

Long before Fifty Shades of Gray or Mektoub My Love Intermezzo, both headlines more recently, this 1958 film also had, in its own way, flowed a lot of ink for its eroticism. On the occasion of the release of the film in a restored copy, as part of a retrospective by director Louis Malle on the theme “Gentleman provocateur”, we invite you to go behind the scenes of the scandal caused by this film.

Released in France on November 5, 1958, Les Amants got off to a sensational start at the Venice Film Festival, where it premiered. It will also start with the Special Jury Prize. Noticed but immediately reported! What is the precise reason? His way, perhaps common for the time, of filming the birth of a carnal passion. Contrary to the habits of the time, Louis Malle’s camera will dwell a little longer than expected on the hugs between Jeanne Moreau and her lover, Jean-Marc Bory …

If we try to define eroticism, I think it is the least erotic film that has ever been made.

What made Les Amants so successful was basically some sort of reputation as an erotic film. If instead we try to define eroticism, I think it is the least erotic film that has ever been made. Eroticism is based on the notion of frustration. It is a very Western notion, based on the notion of sin. Now, just what I wanted to do in Les Amants, when it comes to showing a man and a woman in the moment of truth, when they find themselves obliged to be themselves, in general, let’s pan the window“, confided director Louis Malle a few years after the release of the film, to the microphone of François Chalais *.

And to add:The whole history of cinema, that’s it; these are pots on the window. What Les Amants brought to the films that preceded them is that the window pan took place, say, 30 seconds later. It looks like a movie that played on the scandal. For the sake of it, I wouldn’t even move the window. I know there is a limit all the same, but I believe that what surprised, shocked, scandalized, caused the success in the end, was the great honesty.“.

It’s a film that has been talked about a lot without having seen it!

In an interview shot * at the time of the film’s promotion, Jeanne Moreau expresses her feeling: “It’s a film that has been talked about a lot without having seen it. I think there was a misunderstanding. We talked about scandalous scenes. This famous love scene that happens all night in a park and in the bedroom. It seems to me that this is a pretty serious misunderstanding because this film was shot without any hypocrisy. This scene was not made for commercial purposes to scandalize “.

In the interview book “Conversations with … Louis Malle” **, the director specifies his wishes: “My intention was not to make a film that people would find erotic and scandalous. Yet that’s what happened. But it was essential to understand why this woman had decided to completely change her life, how she had discovered in a single night things that she did not even imagine existed: the physical side of love, sex. And it happened by chance. As often happens, in my first films, the stylistic treatment was defined almost in opposition to the previous film. I was not completely satisfiedLift to the gallows and, in a way, by doing Les Amants, I felt much more myself. I had chosen to tell this story at length. It was fashionable at the time: Hitchcock had made La Corde with a series of ten-minute shots and that impressed us a lot. It was also the moment when Alexandre Astruc talked about the photographic pen. Basically, I was trying to find my style.

A denunciation of the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie

At the origin of this plot is a short story written in the 18th century which served as the basis. Louis Malle explains that he came up with the idea while reading a text written by Vivant-Denon, “contemporary of Choderlos de Laclos (author of Dangerous Liaisons, ed) “. Louis Malle had talked about this text to his co-writer, Louise de Vilmorin.”If this story interested me so much it is also because it reminded me of a scandal that took place in my entourage. A woman I knew well had left her husband and children for someone she had just met. An instant passion, but that didn’t have a happy ending. I can’t say it was autobiographical, but I felt very worried about this story. Of course, what I had in mind was a denunciation of the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie and the fact that women should be good wives, good mothers and that’s it.. “

The film was the subject of discussion, on details that could weigh on the moral of the film. Louis Malle wanted above all to surprise. “I would like the viewer to be constantly surprised by what they see, and then say: -Oh! It’s not what I expected, it’s something else. – That’s what I’ve always tried to do. (…) When the editing of Les Amants was finished, we showed it to the distributors and I remember that they wanted me to delete one shot, the one in which Jeanne Moreau greets her daughter, before leaving. . They told me: – What if we forgot he has a daughter? – It was a very romantic moment and suddenly you were reminded that she was also a mother, who was committing a horrible act by abandoning her son. Leaving her husband, okay, but leaving a four-year-old girl would not please the audience. ‘Sorry, I told you, but in fact, there is everything. If I cut this shot, it doesn’t make sense anymore. ‘ If she had no children, she would simply go from lover to lover, then go back to her husband. But the fact that she has chosen to abandon her daughter means that her decision matters so much more. If you remove it, the ending of the film would be heavy rather than serious “.

Louis Malle’s Les Amants hits theaters this Wednesday as part of the first part of a director’s retrospective. This retrospective consists of the following films: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, Les Amants, Le Feu Follet, Viva Maria, Le Voleur, Le Souffle au coeur and L’Inde phantom.

* Interviews available on the DVD of Les Amants, published by Arte Video

** “Conversations with … Louis Malle”, signed Philip French and translated by Martine Leroy-Battistelli (Dénoel editions, 1993)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *