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La Gueule Ouverte [1974] [Masters of Cinema] [DVD]
Format: DVDChange
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on 5 October 2012
This is an indisputably courageous film by an exceptional and courageous auteur. It is the story of a death - in all its dehumanisation, objectification,and ugliness - but it tells us nothing about death. There are no metaphysical reflections, no redemptive considerations, just the sheer banality of death, just death 'as it is', without comment. The death itself is the background: the foreground story is of the ex-husband and the son of the dying woman, who continue their lives of infidelity, promiscuity - and, yes, utter banality. There are no sympathetic characters here, no warmth of human feeling, and certainly no sentimentality. As other reviewers have commented, this makes it hard to watch, 'washed-out' colours and lightening, relentlessly non-communicative and full of very long sequences (nearly 5 minutes in one scene) where not a single word is uttered or single action undertaken, just the two men walking around the bed watching. It does give you 'truth', perhaps but is that alone enough in a work of art (as opposed to, say,a documentary)? Chekhov, for example, also gives us 'truth' and reflects the utter banality of life ('tragedy' would be too grand a word for it) but with Chekhov we see ourselves in the characters, we have some empathy with their flaws and their empty dreams, and that forces us to be moved and to reflect back on ourselves. Not so here. For me, entirely admirable and courageous, unique in its concept and execution, expertly made - but just too raw, too remote, to connect.
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on 28 September 2014
How do you continue while someone close to you is slowly dying. Plenty of films turn everyone into saints but what if you are not a saint and still caught up by your urges ?
Good to see something that tries to deal with things differently but some scenes that try to show the banality turn into torpor.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2010
A well crafted film, from a very accomplished director, but the story is quite depressing in the sense of there being no redemption, no light at the end of the tunnel. No-one likes over moralising propoganda - but this is at the other end of the scale. The father-wife, son-wife relationships have a similarity about them and whilst the acting is high quality, we are allowed only impressionistic insights into the minds of the main characters. It's a bit like watching a not-so-merry go round, with the men being selfish, randy, unfaithful, stereotypical frenchmen and the women beautiful and seemingly forgiving of their mens' transgressions. Of course this is reinterpreted by critics as Pialat's autobiographical essay into the male libido and how we hurt the ones we love the most and the unknowable source of evil.

Most of the women in the cast are jaw droppingly beautiful. As well as being beautiful, Monique Mélinand's death bed scenes are extremely visceral - all achieved by top-knotch acting, not special effects. She uses the occasion of her death-bed as an occasion to scold her husband's philandering and alcoholism, and some sense of his regret may be the chink of light in an otherwise dark story.

Some of the extras are good - a whole collection of tourism-type documentaries the director made in and about Turkey; and a very good early short, 'Nadine'. The interviews with the director and an actress fall a bit short but the one with Pialat's ex-wife and later professional collaborator, Micheline Pialat is excellent and gives some needed insight into the director's oevre, especially in this film. All told, well worth a watch and one which could inspire a look at his other, more well-know, work.
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on 8 January 2012
Not an easy film to sit through but maurice pialat yet again proves why he was one of frances best filmmakers. Not easy characters to relate to, but the film will stay in your memory.
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