The Films (2.5/5- Mouth Agape, 3/5- Graduate First, 4/5-Loulou)
Cohen gives us this release the Films of Maurice Pialat collection, which can serve as a good introduction to his work. This was definitely my introduction to the work of Pialat, and other then being a mixed bag, the results were mostly positive. Maurice Pialat was a controversial director because of his mood swings and trying to rig up problems on set to get the right performance out of his actors. This is shown in his work where actors have long pauses and mood swings like in real life, for better or worse. Pialat is known for his long takes and realistic style. He covered many topics about the human condition and showed us characters for everything they had, even the perverse bits.
The first feature on disc 1 is The Mouth Agape (1974). Mouth Agape tells the story about Phillippe (played by Phillippe Leotard) who faces the slow death of his mother (Monique Melinand) by a terminal illness. With him is his wife Nathalie (Nathalie Baye) and his father Roger (Hubert Deschamps) as they try to take care of his mother, even if it looks like a pointless uphill battle.
The Mouth Agape is a very sad and hopeless film. Thru the many long take scenes we see life as is for these characters and the tragedy of the unavoidable death of the mother. That’s really the film in a nutshell. The characters are shown as deeply hurt. The two men in the film are constantly having affairs and the mother regrets everything about her life. Sadly, that’s all the film has to offer. Before the emotionally charged ending, the movie runs out of steam in the long second act. The story doesn’t really go anywhere and these characters are just not interesting enough to hold out the runtime. The film is also very flat and boring to look at. Worth one viewing but due to the execution the subject matter is even more depressing.
Also on disc one is Graduate First (1978). Graduate First tells the story about a group of troubled teenagers living in the French region of Lens. Due to Unemployment the teens see no hope for the future and what to be when they’re fully grown adults. As the future gets closer this film shows us a document of their lives and the futures they try to start.
Graduate First is a huge improvement storytelling wise and it is way more cinematic. The movie is still depressing, but at least there is hope for some of the characters. This shows their lifestyle just as is without damming anyone. The movie is also a semi-sequel to Pialat’s Naked Childhood (which I haven’t seen). The movie is a character study on these kids and doesn’t shy away from there trouble making of smoking pot, skipping school, and having sex with lots of partners. To clear some things up, most of these teens are 19 or 20, but there is still some 16 year olds partaking in these acts, so a lot of the film is uncomfortable to watch. Pialat’s camera isn’t afraid to show some the violence between couples and the relaxed sexual nature of the film. At least there’s disco music for the downtime. One element of the film that I found very off putting was the teachers trying to sleep with some of the students. While the movie is still off beat and sad, there’s more of a visual kick and creative camera moves. Not to mention a clear open credits sequence involving desks. The movie has a good pace and believable characters, but it’s still a toss-up because of some of the sleazy elements.
On Disc 2 we get the best and last film in the set, Loulou (1980). Loulou is a romantic drama about a bored wife named Nelly (Isabelle Huppert) who can’t stand her bipolar husband Andre (Guy Marchand). She soon starts an affair with an Excon named Loulou (Gerard Depardieu) who just wants to do nothing. The drama starts to boil over when Nelly discovers that she is pregnant with Loulou’s child.
Loulou is a very straight forward and funny movie in parts. It’s by far the best looking of the three movies and the one with the most heart. A big part of why this movie works in the chemistry of the three leads in this bizarre love triangle. While not perfect, these three characters are fully developed and magmatic. You simply can’t turn away when there on screen. Also unlike the previous two films, the tone is less dreadful and there’s actually signs of hope for the doomed relationship between Loulou and Nelly. The movie full of long takes and odd bipolar moments, but here it actually works. Loulou is the jewel of this collection.
All three films have a 2.0 French Dolby digital track. Most of the tracks are smooth and without hiss, but there’s a couple times in Graduate First where the audio gets some background noise. This is most likely from the recording of the actual film. All three films have easy to read white subtitles.
All three films have a 1080p transfer with Loulou having the most impressive polished look. Due to filming conditions there’s some pale colors and a few poorly focused shots, but for the most part the movies look beautiful. The transfer adds some life to the muted colors that try to show harsh reality.
Cohen have loaded this release with plenty of extras. Extras are spread out on discs 2 and 3, which can get confusing because the extras for the first movies are on disc 3. On disc 2 we get all the extras for Loulou. We get a wealth of interviews. There’s an Interview with filmmaker and journalist Dominique Maillet, an interview with actress Isabelle Huppert, Assistant director Patrick Grandperret, Director of Photography Pierre-William Glenn, and film editor Yann Dedet. Quick side note on the interviews, the image quality on the Patrick Grandperret and Yann Dedet is just terrible. Yann Dedet’s interview is overly bright and has some kind of wavy effect going on. It was very distracting. Finishing off disc 2 we have the original and 2016 re-release trailers for the film.
Disc 3 is the real treasure chest of extras. The main extra is the 85-minute documentary Maurice Pialat Love Exists, narrated by Gerard Depardieu. The documentary is filled with film clips and interviews with Pialat, who comes off as a troubled man. Unfortunately, the feature looks pretty bad and stretched. Also on the disc are the extras for Graduate First and Mouth Agape, which include an Interviews with Patrick Grandperret and editor Arlette Longman, Micheline Pialat, actress Nathalie Baye, 11 minutes of deleted scenes for Mouth Agape, and original and 2016 re-release trailers for both films. Like disc 2, the interviews look a little soft focused. The release comes with a nice fully illustrated booklet with gorgeous stills from the films.
Maurice Pialat can be a tough sale for a lot of viewers, even I’m not sure if I want to see all of his films. He was definitely a challenging filmmaker who showed harsh realism while still showing heart for his characters. I respect his place in film history, but be sure to be in the right mood while watching his films. The crown jewel in the set is the wonderful Loulou, which makes this set a worthwhile buy. Cohen gives these films a great release with plenty of extras. Recommended.