“Everyone has to discover love for himself.”
In 1950s France, a teenager (Benoît Ferreux) with rowdy older brothers (Fabien Ferreux and Marc Winocourt) experiences a heart murmur while struggling to relate to his gynecologist father (Daniel Gélin) and developing a growing crush on his sexually promiscuous mother (Léa Massari).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- French Films
- Incest and Incestuous Undertones
- Louis Malle Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “rude comedy” (I’m not so sure it’s a comedy) by Louis Malle about “incestuous feelings between [a] sexually curious 14-year-old… and his beautiful, sensuous Italian mother” is primarily concerned with “drawing a scathing portrait of the French bourgeoisie.” He argues that “in Malle’s customary uncontroversial way,” the “comedy [sic] advances [the] novel idea that the best way to show rejection of [the] bourgeoisie’s shackles is to break its sexual rules.” Maybe so — but there isn’t anything inherently amusing about this tale of sexual exploration and complicated mother-child dynamics.
While this film has quite a few fans who appreciate the “natural,” non-sensationalized way in which Ferreux and Massari grow increasingly affectionate with one another, I’ll admit I’m not among its admirers. Its best moments show the authenticity (based in large part on Malle’s own childhood) of Ferreux attempting to learn from a kind-hearted prostitute (Gila von Weitershausen) his brothers have taken him to:
… and navigating adolescent passes at girls once he’s at a sanitorium for his heart condition. Otherwise, frankly, the film feels manipulative; knowing the film’s taboo topic makes one simply wait with unease to see how it plays out.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Benoît Ferreux as Laurent
No, though of course Malle fans will want to check it out.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)