Perhaps the most misunderstood of all his movies. The nerve and verve of Shoot the Pianist or Jules et Jim seem to be gone. Public and critical reaction were negative, making the director reel and retreat. And no wonder, because this can now be seen as one of his most personal as well as daring films. For the sheer intensity of its sadness it should be grouped with The Green Room and in particular Adele H, with which it has much in common, thematically.
While JPL's lead performance, with its use of blankness, its deliberate echoes of Buster Keaton, may not entirely work (the distance he creates from us does support the other actors, and helps to create a number of subliminal, unusual nuances--much like the shyness of Azdnavour in Pianist--but it is also unsettling in ways that may not help--JPL is too young in this old man's movie), and while Kika Markham's performance is wonderfully radiant, subtle and intelligent (as also agreed by critics of the time), in many ways it is Stacy Tendeter's which is awsome--one of the most remarkable performances of all movies, there is very little else like it. It is unnerving, it burns and hurts, it is daring and painful and true. It is the performance of a lifetime.
This is a great movie about love--its joys and its impossibilities. The landscape, the music, the rituals, the choreography of bodies and movements, the lighting--all contribute. There is Rodin, sisters, the Brontes. It is full of parallels, echoes, weird symmetries, losses, moments of strtling recognition. Like something like I Know Where I'm Going, it is more than the sum of its parts. It is deeply affecting. It is, as Pauline Kael said in a mixed contemporary review, 'bewilderingly sad'. (She couldn't pin down why this apparently disappointing movie yet had so much emotion in it)
I first saw it in 1984 and it haunted me thereafter. I couldn't believe it wasn't better known. Finding out that the contemporary reviews were disappointed and mediocre, I presumed its story and expression had just hit some personal nerve with myself. But I have been glad to watch its reputation slowly grow (very slowly!).
I have written in response to the mediocreness of the prior Amazon review. My love for the film has not allowed me to be concise or particulary articulate. I am sorry. You might love this amazing film.