Monday, April 29, 2013

We Won't Grow Old Together (Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble)

WE WON’T GROW OLD TOGETHER (Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble)   B+  
France  Italy  (107 mi)  1972  d:  Maurice Pialat

Somewhat in the vein of Jean Eustache’s bleak confessional outpourings in The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain) (1973), this chilly and impersonal film is based on the director’s own autobiography, an unsparing portrait of a cad, an odious, self-absorbed, and domineering man, emblematic of the director himself, starring the dour and despondent Jean Yanne (winner of Best Actor at Cannes), wearing the same wide sideburns from Godard’s WEEKEND (1967) and Chabrol’s LE BOUCHER (1970), as well as the more energized photographic cover girl Marlène Jobert from Godard’s MASCULIN FÉMININ (1966), who also played opposite Charles Bronson in René Clément’s RIDER ON THE RAIN (1970).  She’s seen here playing the buoyant yet continually hurt mistress along with another Godard actress Macha Méril from UNE FEMME MARIÉE (1964) as the overly critical wife, that pushes and pushes us further inside a failed relationship until it’s impossible not to identify with the characters’ inner world, a film in the manner of Truffaut’s later film THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN (1977), complete with delusions of love, which is really nothing but self obsession, and once disappointed, and he’s always disappointed, he’s filled with self-loathing, which he usually takes out on Jobert with abusive, contemptuous comments designed to destroy any sense of her self-esteem. 

According to the director, this film has only 25 shots, a fact which, alone, suggests this is not an ordinary film, rather it’s a quasi-experimental film about endless breakups and makeups, much like the repetitive rhythm of Ravel’s “Bolero” - Maurice Ravel BOLERO - Wiener Philharmonic - YouTube (17:23).  Shot along the streets of Paris, told in an impersonal manner, always standing outside the action, the camera follows the predictable rhythms and routine of a loveless marriage with Françoise (Macha Méril), with whom he still lives, while Jean simultaneously pursues a long and unhappy 5-year affair with a much younger Catherine (Marlène Jobert), a poisonous relationship filled with acts of abuse, bullying, and intimidation.  The film consists of endless scenes of tortuous repetition, picking up Catherine, trying to entice her to bed, growing angry when she’s not interested, leaving or slamming the door in her face, seeing her again, starting the same process all over again, which happens so often that it eventually becomes ludicrous.  In a frustrating portrait of interdependency, the couple is together again, we have no idea how much time has passed, no explanation is necessary.  But neither one can end it. 

And when we think it’s over, it’s not, as they continue to keep seeing one another, where they over-analyze every move and thought.  Once she finally leaves him for good, only then does he get serious about finding her attractive, only when he realizes he’s lost her does he begin to treat her nicely, but it’s too late.  His visit to her parent’s house is excruciatingly uncomfortable, as they just don’t know how to politely get rid of him.  The structure of the film is a slow build up of the claustrophobic feelings where there is no escape, where one is choking on the familiarity of growing tired with one another, largely expressed (twenty years before Kiarostami) through their repeated confinement in a tiny, perpetually parked car Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble - YouTube (2:56), the picture of motionless and emotional paralysis and the basis of this comic, but lethally serious confessional examination.  The film was a particular favorite of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, with a similar sadism used for the male protagonist of MARTHA (1974), where Pialat expressly forbid the actor Jean Yanne from displaying even a hint of tenderness.  The use of Haydn’s music from “The Creation” Hermann Prey - Die Schöpfung - Joseph Haydn YouTube (6:07) is enthralling at the finale, playing over flashback images of Jobert swimming alone in the choppy waves of the sea.  After the final break up, all that’s left are these memories.  

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