Mes petites amoureuses (1974)

22 03 2009

The only thing that Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore has in common with this, his follow up, is an abundance of beautiful insights and observations. Otherwise, it may very well be the work of a completely different director all together. While the much more remembered Mother and the Whore goes a more talkative, almost proto-mumblecore (anyone rolling their eyes here?) route, this film is closer to being a companion piece to Maurice Pialat’s wonderful debut, L’Enfance Nue. Fittingly, Pialat himself has a nice, if brief, appearance here.

The protagonist here, whose name (Daniel) we only learn towards the closing moments, is a little bit older than Pialat’s Francois. The common ground of the two films is shared in their aesthetic, which is both austere and compassionate. Cold, in a way, but comforting in an another. Both directors are taking some pretty obvious cues from Robert Bresson. Pialat masks his a little bit, if only that his camera is much more mobile than either Eustache’s or Bresson’s, but all there directors create this quiet and cruel yet endlessly fascinating universe. It’s difficult to describe, but the tone is so apparent, and thus, so effective.

Like Pialat’s protagonist, the camera documents Daniel transitioning between two ways of living. In the beginning, he is living peacefully in the country side with his grandmother. Later on his mother retrieves him and introduces him into a world that is similarly quiet, yet somehow more chaotic. Daniel’s fascination with women begins to develop, he starts smoking, and hanging out with slightly older children. Never, though, are we given the impression that living with his mother made him worse, or that it even tainted his otherwise calm persona. Instead, it is understood that he is becoming an adult. It sounds hokey and I’m sure most of the world doesn’t need another coming-of-age story, but Eustache’s is so tangible and right that I am willing to beg people to experience it.

I actually lied in the opening paragraph. There’s one more thing that this shares with The Mother and the Whore: it goes by so damn fast. Eustache’s more talked about earlier feature is known for its long length, but in a way, it goes by faster than most 90 minute long features. Unfortunately, this effort only runs just under two hours. The whole experience is so fleeting, perhaps because I can relate to so much of it. After all, the stuff Daniel is going through is fleeting in and of itself so it is only fitting that the movie proceeds without a drop of pretentiousness, or self-conscious seriousness.

“Unassuming” would be a decent adjective, but I have trouble loading up on words in an attempt to describe the beauty of this masterpiece. It’s definitely a personal film, maybe not for Eustache, but instead, for anyone that can relate (or want to) relate to Daniel’s experience. Calling a film honest seems like an entirely empty gesture, but the reality is so overwhelming, touching, and beautiful that I can’t think of anything else to call it.

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One response

5 11 2009
Gregor Murdoch

trying to find high def images of the ppictures above but can’t find them. Does anyone know where I can find them?

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