Saturday, August 26, 2006

Murmur of the Heart

Finally a film which celebrates sex and sensual pleasure without summoning Freud or Sartre or giving us lectures on the theories of "alienation" or feminist politics. That is not to say that it is shallow slapstick sexual romp like those Hollywood teen movies. It does get into really dark and outre sexual territories and is extremely frank in showing all of it but its worldview regarding sex and its place in our lives is refreshingly benign.

I won't reveal what the dark sexual territories are but I will just say that I was surprised my own reaction to those scenes. And it is entirely to the credit of director Louis Malle that he turns those scenes into something very tender and touching. I don't know how he does it. Lea Masari (the girl who disappears in L'Avventura) is absolutely brilliant in the role of young, free-spirited and libidinous mom of three hormonally charged young lads. I bet you have never seen any mom like her not only in your life but even in the movies... :) And also I can't help but note. The fifteen year old central character is really precocious, not just sexually but intellectually also. He reads Proust and wonders if the two girls dancing with each other are lesbians because he reads about it in the book! He also surprises his catholic teacher by writing an essay on Heraclitus to which prompts the teacher to express surprise to his mother saying that Heidegger took 200 pages to translate two lines from Heraclitus!
Overall a nice erotic fun. A great way to spend the evening. There were only a few people in the audiences which was good because I didn't how people would have reacted to those scenes.

Articles on the film from the Criterion site here and New York Times. Roger Ebert seems to like it a lot too. He gives it four out of four stars.

Previous posts on two other fantastic french movies of the same "sexual awakening" genre, Fat Girl and Innocence (there are more links in the posts.) Isn't it interesting that when it comes to adolescent girls rather than boys, the focus shifts from sex to the culture of oppression and the politics of gender? It is also worth noting that both these films were made by women directors.

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