Sunday, May 10, 2009

1971: 10th - Murmur of the Heart

Murmur of the Heart (Le souffle au coeur) was written and directed by Louise Malle. The film tells a coming of age story about a 14-year-old boy who is growing up in bourgeois surroundings in France. At the beginning, the film shows the adventures of the boy in the school and his first sexual experience at a brothel. When the boy is found to have a heart murmur after a bout of scarlet fever, he goes with his mother to a sanatorium, where a series of circumstances lead to a sexual encounter.
The film definitely deals with several taboo topics at the time but with a humor, that while disarming, still causes one to reflect on what has happened. This is a film that gives you rich characters that actually 'think' before acting, instead of the horny slobs that we get in "Porky's." And while most will cringe at the movie's theme of incest, it's presented in a way not simply to exploit, but instead mutes its harshness. I appreciated that the film neither talked down to me and hit me over the head with the "message", nor was it an irresponsible "glamorizing" of the subject.
As is the case with independent films today, even though this movie premiered in 1971 at Cannes, it was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars in 1973.
Other opinions:

"We have it on no less an authority than Leo Tolstoy that all happy families are the same, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. I am not quite sure, however, that Count Tolstoy had in mind a family like the one we meet in "Murmur of the Heart," Louis Malle's warm, human, very funny movie about incest. You will agree that this family, at least, is happy in its own way." -
Roger Ebert

" Film is quintessentially French in its look at the awakening outlooks and sex imbroglios of a 14-year-old boy who likes to pass himself off as 15. Louis Malle lavishes insight, perhaps personal reminiscences, and unflagging rightness in atmosphere, character and observation to make this a richly comic, touching and incisive portrait of a young man in the French provincial city of Dijon in 1954. (Benoit) Ferreux has the vulnerability, warmth and witty outlook that give his young protagonist a human and recognizable quality. His mother is excellently drawn by (Lea) Massari, whose need for freedom will not allow her to give way to a demanding suitor. All others are excellent." - Variety

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