Monday, February 15, 2010
Just when you expect another titillating French romantic drama about young girls and lost innocence, Maurice Pialat takes us on a surprising and highly subjective guided tour of a damaged family’s personal pain. The film is comprised of shifting alliances and points of view, and presents the fragility of family dynamics in ways that range from subtle to harrowing. First, we are introduced to young Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a budding young heartbreaker, at summer camp.
There, along with swimming and arts and crafts, she has taken up a new activity: the wanton pursuit of boys – and in some cases, men - for a bit of snogging in the moonlit weeds.
But as we think Suzanne’s sexual quest will be the real meat of story, the film takes one of its several leaps forward in time, and we are home in Paris where we meet Suzanne’s brooding boyfriend (Cyr Boitard) and her squabbling, malcontent family led by her father (Pialat) who is deeply suspicious of his daughter’s innocent-sounding “movie dates”.
The pressures in the family’s rambling apartment are palpable, and its walls seem to inch closer in every scene. Suzanne’s only escape from this toxic atmosphere of recrimination is through a series of sexual liaisons that ultimately leave her feeling empty, yet oddly grateful for even a few minutes of affectionate attention.
And it is this gratitude that prompts Suzanne to make a decision about her future that makes us eerily wonder if she is inviting a repeat of family history. Here, Pialat offers an interesting twist on conventional morality, as Suzanne’s late night escapades have an air of warmth and wholesomeness about them, in stark relief to the violent, and at times shocking, confrontations that await her at home.
“A Nos Amours” is a film that presses boundaries and pushes buttons. It forces us out of our comfort zone by involving us in a tableau of equally condemnable characters, yet we can’t judge any of them without revealing our own hypocrisy.
The Sublime Thoughts of Bunched Undies