1-World Festival of Foreign Films
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"Murmur of the Heart"
1971
Directed by Louis Malle

Louis Malle directed this affectionate story of a young man's coming of age. When a 14-year-old boy from a bourgeois home is sent to a sanitarium for his health, he learns that mother knows best. A comic and, at the time, quite scandalous motion picture. With Benoit Ferreux as the rambunctious kid and Lea Massari as his sensuous mom. Also Daniel Gelin, Marc Winocourt and Michel Lonsdale. Watch for the dinner tennis match. French with English subtitles.
118 minutes.


 

Guest Comments

From:  "Gareth"

"I am a 16-year-old student and I first saw this film when I was 13, nearly three years ago. I had not had very much experience of foreign cinema before, but I did not approach the film with any apprehension, because of my long-standing Francophilia, i.e. love of all things French. Maybe the subject matter of the film, incest, is not one considered particularly suitable for boys in their early teens, but incest, as some sources would not have you believe, only forms a minor role in the film. It is semi-autobiographical, based on Malle's own experiences, and tells the story of 14-year old Laurent Chevalier, growing up in Dijon in the mid-1950s. He attends a Catholic school and comes from a stuffy, upper-middle class background, although he enjoys many laughs with his two elder brothers and his mother, with whom he has a very close relationship. Laurent is taken by his brothers to a brothel, where his sexual initiation is intended to take place, but his brothers cruelly interrupt him. Malle himself was taken to a brothel in his teens also, so this sequence in the film contains a particular gravitas. Not much later in the film, Laurent contracts a heart murmur ("un souffle au coeur", as the doctor says, thus giving the film its title). Laurent goes away with his mother to stay at a spa town, where he is to recuperate. Both Laurent and his mother encounter emotional rejection at the resort, Laurent from a girl older than him, his mother Clara from the man with whom she is having an affair. On Bastille Night, Clara, drinks too much and is too tired to undress when they get back to their hotel, so Laurent helps her to take her clothes off, and, almost spontaneously, they make love on her bed. She explains that this was a special moment, but one which will never happen again. Laurent sneaks out of the room later that night and goes to the room of another girl, where he spends the night. He returns hastily to his room the next morning, shoes in hand, only to be confronted by his brothers and father. Clara then enters the room through a different door. Realising what Laurent has just come from doing, they all burst out laughing and so the film ends.
One of the reasons why this film is so good is its frankness with the viewer, but it is also a very charming, comic and refreshing film. The acting is first-rate throughout, as is always true with Malle's films, and I felt that the ending was particularly special. The whole film is masterfully directed by Malle and the soundtrack of Charlie Parker is great, really evoking a feel of period. This film truly stands on its own among films, although the incestuous aspect raised a few eyebrows on the film's release. The treatment of incest, however, is so delicate and measured that it makes it nearly impossible to complain. This is some of Malle's best work and must surely rank alongside Au Revoir Les Enfants and Malle's other masterpieces, though it is arguably more watchable than any other film he made. If you haven't seen this film, then see it; If you have, then see it again."


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