Maurice Pialat is probably best known to American arthouse audiences as the man who gave us À nos amours, the film that introduced Sandrine Bonnaire to the U.S. and the world (though I remember seeing his earlier Naked Childhood at one of the early New York Film Festivals). His films resolutely resist sentimentality and instead appear to offer an unvar-nished look at their characters and through them at life itself. This is most likely why Pialat (shown below) never found a wide audience here in America.
THE MOUTH AGAPE (1974, 87 minutes), which deals with the death of a late-middle-aged mother and wife, and the family that gathers around her;
GRADUATE FIRST (1978, 85 minutes), which looks in on a bevy of French high-school students, along with some of their parents and teachers, as the kids topple gracelessly into young adulthood;
LOULOU (1980, 105 minutes), which, while offering the star power of Gérard Depardieu, Isabelle Huppert and Guy Marchand, also proves in some ways, to be the least of the three. (I remember seeing this one around the time of its original release and wondering what all the fuss was about. Seeing it again, some 35 years later, I'm wondering still.
TrustMovies did a binge watch of this new release -- available on both DVD and Blu-ray -- viewing one after another of the films. This was edifying in some ways because it definitely brought out certain characteristics of this filmmaker that I might not have noticed so thoroughly, had I put more space between the viewings. In Pialat's movies, the men are mostly pigs and the women docile tag-alongs who weep a lot and do not seem to enjoy sex all that much, though they partake in it often, due to the male prerogative.
Philippe Léotard (above) again, alongside a Nathalie Baye (above, top) who appears here as young as I have ever seen her. Overall, the filmmaker's choice of moments and scenes come together to produce an end-of-life tale that must have seemed new and daring in its day, and remains so even now. Only Stéphane Brizé's A Few Hours of Spring has done anything like this in terms of the death of a parent on film that I have witnessed.
Cohen Film Collection's Classics of French Cinema series, the three-disc package in one box features Graduate First and The Mouth Agape on one disc, Loulou on another, and all the multitudinous extras on the third. The Films of Maurice Pialat, Volume 1 (this augurs well for more to come) arrives on DVD and Blu-ray -- with the Blu-ray transfer are pretty good for each film -- this coming Tuesday, May 17, for purchase, and I hope, rental, too. The series would seem a must for Pialat fans, and a good introduction to those who've yet to discover his work. (The mother/daughter confrontation above is from Graduate First.)