2 June 2020 | brogmiller
For better, for worse.
'New Wave, 'Neo-Noir', 'political thriller' or 'romantic melodrama'? Whatever label one choses to attach to this film it represents a highly assured directorial debut by Alain Cavalier. By all accounts it was made 'under the supervision' of Louis Malle although how much influence he exerted and to what extent he contributed is impossible to establish.
Cavalier's next film, the brilliant 'L'Insoumi', used as a backdrop the Algerian War of Independence. In the film under review this conflict is neither mentioned nor alluded to but the leading character Clement belongs to an extremist right-wing organisation which one assumes is a reference to the OAS that was formed just one year earlier in an attempt to foil Algerian self-determination. After having failed in an attempt to bump off a left-wing politician Clement realises he has been betrayed and is nominated by other members of his group to track the traitor to South America and kill him. His wife Anne, with whom he has a volatile and rather violent relationship, tells him that if he goes she never wishes to see him again. In his absence she falls in love with and is pregnant by Paul, a lifelong friend of Clement. When Clement returns and hears the news he challenges Paul to a duel........ This was a good phase for Henri Serre who plays Paul as 'Jules et Jim' was released the previous year. He had a minor role in Malle's 'Le Feu Follet' the following year but it is hard to find any film thereafter as effective which is a pity. Jean-Louis Trintignant, one of France's greatest living actors, brings his own air of mystery and unpredictability to the part of Clement. It is not too fanciful I am sure to connect this role with that of the fascist Marcello in Bertolucci's 'Il Conformista' eight years later. The film really belongs to Romy Schneider as Anne. At first she appears to be the passive wife and little more than the obligatory 'love interest' but her character develops strongly and becomes the driving force. Her qualities as an actress are manifold and of course the camera absolutely adores her. The next few years provided nothing comparable but her career was revitalised by 'Les Choses de ma Vie' for Claude Sautet. Excellent script by Cavalier and Jean-Paul Rappeneau with gorgeous, grainy cinematography by the masterful Pierre L'Homme. Cavalier maintains a 'lento' rhythm throughout which allows the characters to breathe whilst never allowing the momentum to slacken. If you liked this, you will love 'L'Insoumi'.