The Lovers (Les amants) ~ (France, 1958) ~ DVD

Back in the 60’s, my best friend and I had an obsession with Jeanne Moreau, who we thought was the epitome of eroticism. First, there was Jules and Jim which seemed to be out of the pages of our very lives: two best friends obsessed with the same woman you see. Then there was a line out of The Trial that we took to quoting all the time and we thought was the pinnacle of an erotic statement: Jeanne Moreau asking “Do you have a deformity? I do [holding up a hand with a deformed finger] to Anthony Perkins. Yeah, I know….

I had never seen The Lovers, which was busted for obscenity in Cleveland of all places and went all the way to the Supreme Court before being ruled not obscene: the famous “I know it when I see it” opinion.

Jeanne Tournier (Moreau) is increasingly bored with her life and her marriage. Her husband is a workaholic and never pays any attention to her. She begins spending more and more time in Paris with an old friend (Maggy) and takes up with a polo player. Still, there’s still something missing in her life but she doesn’t know it until one day when her car breaks down on her way back from Paris and things eventually take a sharp turn in a different direction.

Moreau is terrific as she plays the provincial housewife with a certain malaise. Her husbands lack of attention and seeming interest make her “feel free”. When she takes up with the polo player, it’s still with a certain passionless attitude. When she is awakened by still another man, you can absolutely see her blossom into a nother person. The turn of events plays like a fairy tale, and on th one hand seems not believable. But Moreau makes us believe with the changes she presents on the screen.

The great Louis Malle’s (Atlantic City*, My Dinner With Andre, The Thief of Paris**) second feature. I can’t mention two of these films without further commentary:

*Atlantic City: Comes with the classic Burt Lancaster line, “The Atlantic…they don’t make oceans like that anymore”. [I think I have that right]. And a confession: I can’t see a woman cutting up a lemon without thinking of Susan Sarandon’s breasts. There it is!

**The Thief of Paris: Even more than Breathless, this has always been my favorite Belmondo film. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

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