MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

A FILM THAT IS JUST LIKE THE MOVIES

Love stories, like love affairs, need a master's hand when they end

WENDY MICHENER December 17 1966
MACLEAN’S REVIEWS

A FILM THAT IS JUST LIKE THE MOVIES

Love stories, like love affairs, need a master's hand when they end

WENDY MICHENER December 17 1966

A FILM THAT IS JUST LIKE THE MOVIES

Love stories, like love affairs, need a master's hand when they end

Michener on movies

“WHEN SOMETHING silly happens, people say it’s just like in the movies,” complains the hero of A Man And A Woman. “Why don’t people take the movies seriously?”

Claude Lelouch, the 28-year-old writer-director of this French romance can have no complaints on that score. A Man And A Woman has been taken very seriously despite the silly things his characters do. It has already won a string of prizes including the golden palm at Cannes this year, and the Academy Awards are still to come.

A Man And A Woman starts off strongly in a style that combines the spontaneity of candid documentaries with the drive and glamour of musical comedy. It’s seductively photographed, sometimes in color, sometimes in black and white, and for the first half of the film it seems as though here at last is a freshly told love-story.

The opening moves of the courtship are so believable. Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant meet at their children’s boarding school, then get to know each other through the slow intimacy of a long drive home in the rain. Then there are mixed family outings — because of course the children must be compatible too. And each acts with the wariness of someone who has already been married, and lost his love only through death.

Lelouch would rather show than tell, and so the whole of their first marriages appears in a highlight of flashbacks. She is a script-girl and we see her life out with the cameras on location. He is a racing-car driver and there’s his world of engines, teamwork and early morning test-runs. All this is so real that there’s no need for dialogue, and in public the children do most of the talking.

But once the lovers have manoeuvred into the bedroom, the picture is in trouble. Lelouch has just one small

observation to make: that a woman who has loved truly is likely to be haunted by memories of her first raptures. Failing to find the words to resolve this situation, Lelouch leaves the rest of his story to his songwriters, and, predictably, the picture sinks into the sticky swamp of adolescent lovisms. The photography slickens: face, face, choruses of Ia-la-la-lala, cut, cut, “We said no more love, but love is stronger than us” — closeup, he thinks, close-up, she thinks, and the inevitable last-minute journey ending in lovers’ meeting. Just like in the movies.

A Man And A Woman is a love story in which the most memorable sequences are all about cars.

TWO FILMS ABOUT women have turned up in the pre-Christmas rush. There’s all the difference in the world between Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl and the 80-year-old French actress Sylvie in The Shameless Old Lady. And yet they are both the same.

Lynn Redgrave plays an ugly duckling of a girl — one of those big bony English broads usually associated with horses and tweeds., The picture was intended, according to its expatriate Canadian director, Sylvio Nazarino, to be anti-“bird” — a bird being the kind of painty-nailed stilettoheeled ad-product girl who shares a flat with Georgy.

If you stop to think about it, Georgy’s swan-story is more than a little odd! She becomes the mistress of her roommate’s husband (Alan Bates), the mother of the couple’s unwanted child, and finally the wife of the lecherous millionaire (James Mason) who employs her mean old parents. There’s revenge, if you like.

But the chances are you won’t stop to think. Georgy Girl is from the life’s-a-giggle school of comedy, and Lynn Redgrave larks about non-stop, exhibiting a talent for mimicry with overtones of Joyce Grenfell. If every so-called plain girl had her looks, talent, energy and charm the world would be full of stars. Lynn is the third so far in the Redgrave family.

Old ladies are usually relegated to horror movies, but Sylvie is no ordinary old lady, and the heroine of The Shameless Old Lady is no ordinary human being.

Her shame is that after 70 years as daughter, wife and then mother, she rejects the role of bereaved widow and stubbornly insists on enjoying just being alive. Free at last, she goes out to eat in restaurants, walks around the harbor of Marseilles in the middle of the night, and prefers the company of friends to her leeching relatives.

The ironic story is by Bertold Brecht, the marvelously unpretentious direction is by René Allio and the soul comes from Sylvie. Her small gestures of delight, her sparkling eyes and lack of self-pity are a comforting reminder that pleasure is not only for the young. WENDY MICHENER