Monday, December 21, 2009

Loulou (1980)

If you were a young adult in the late 1970s this film will likely strike a chord with you, as it captures a time when romantic notions of love were replaced by a raw, aggressive sexuality. Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu are, not surprisingly, quite amazing as an earthy Parisian couple who have nothing in common off of their mattress, but their athletic escapades provide sufficient common ground for them to stay together. While the Netflix plot summary describes Huppert as in flight from an abusive husband (Guy Marchand), we can’t really surmise that from the film, as director Pialat is quite stingy with the couple’s backstory. The straight-laced Marchand becomes violent and mean once he discovers he’s being cuckolded, and his fits of temper seem perfectly logical in context.

Huppert appears to be escaping nothing but middle-class boredom, and the thuggish ex-con Depardieu provides her with the spark of dangerous excitement she seeks. The couple thrives in their free love fantasyland for a while, but eventually remnants of their past lives, and a careless pregnancy, signal incoming trouble in paradise. Maurice Pialat does some very good work here, presenting this liberated but confused era with an almost tactile immediacy. While the filmmaking style could be considered verite, there is still a subtle subjectivity that sneakily leads us into making stern value judgments about these characters without abandoning our interest in them.

Particularly impressive is Huppert, who is one of the few actors ever to share a film with young Depardieu and not be gobbled up in the process. Their chemistry on screen is quite believable and, through her instinctive technique, she allows Depardieu to become a much deeper and more appealing character than the physicality of his role would suggest. In all, “LouLou” manifests a time, a place and a mindset that’s a lot more enjoyable to watch than it was to live through.

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