The Mother and the Whore
|The Mother and the Whore|
Film poster of The Mother and the Whore
|Directed by||Jean Eustache|
|Produced by||Vincent Malle
|Written by||Jean Eustache|
|Editing by||Denise de Casabianca
|Release dates||May 1973Cannes Film Festival|
|Running time||219 min|
The Mother and the Whore (French: La Maman et la Putain) is a 1973 French film directed by Jean Eustache. Examining the relationship between three characters in a love triangle, it was Eustache's first feature film and is considered his masterpiece.
The film focuses on three twenty-somethings in an unconventional love triangle in Paris during the summer of 1972. Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is an unemployed young man involved with both a live-in girlfriend Marie (Bernadette Lafont) and the Polish nurse Veronika (Françoise Lebrun). He had picked up Veronika at a café after an unsuccessful reconciliation with a former love, Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten). With Veronika, he begins a desultory affair. Although Marie affirms her indifference to Alexandre's affairs, she quickly changes her mind when she sees how close he becomes to Veronika. This leads to a growing estrangement between her and Alexandre. The film focuses less on plot or narrative than on the confused and ambivalent life style of these three young people in post-May '68 Paris
- Bernadette Lafont as Marie
- Jean-Pierre Léaud as Alexandre
- Françoise Lebrun as Veronika
- Isabelle Weingarten as Gilberte
- Jacques Renard as Alexandre's Friend
In 1972 Eustache had begun to doubt his career in films and contemplated quitting the business. He told a reporter from Le Nouvel Observateur "If I knew what it was that I wanted, I wouldn't wake up in the morning to make films. I'd do nothing, I'd try to live without doing or producing anything." Soon afterwards he got a new idea for a film to make with his friends Jean-Pierre Léaud, Bernadette Lafont and Françoise Lebrun, who at that time was a literature student that he knew and had never acted before. He was loaned money from friend Barbet Schroeder to spend three months writing the script, which was over three-hundred pages. Although the film often seems to be highly improvised, every word of dialogue was written by Eustache.
The film was shot in only four months on a budget of 700,000 francs. Eustache called it a very hostile film, and it mostly consisted of dialogues and monologues about sex. Eushache says that the character Alexandre is "destroying [the three lead characters], but he is looking for it all along. After his voyage into madness and depression, he ends up alone. That's when I stop the film." The film had no musical score and only used natural sounds and occasionally music played by the characters on phonographs, such as Mozart and Edith Piaf. Eustache described the film as a "narrative of certain seemingly innocous acts. It could be the narrative of entirely different acts, in other places. What happens, the places where the action unfolds, have no importance...My subject is the way in which important actions situate themselves in a continum of innocuous ones. It's the description of the normal course of events without the schematic abbreviation of cinematographic dramatization."
The Mother and the Whore is considered Eustache's masterpiece, and was called the best film of the 1970s by Cahiers du cinéma. It won the Grand Prix of the Jury and the FIPRESCI prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival. The film created a scandal at the Cannes Film Festival, as many critics saw the film as immoral and obscene or, in the words of the broadsheet Le Figaro, "an insult to the nation", while Télé-7-Jours called it a "monument of boredom and a Himalaya of pretension".
After gaining little public recognition despite receiving praise throughout the years from critics and directors, such as François Truffaut and other members of the French New Wave, Eustache became an overnight success and internationally famous after the film's Cannes premiere. He soon financed his next film. The critic Dan Yakir said that the film was "a rare instance in French cinema where the battle of the sexes is portrayed not from the male point of view alone". James Monaco called it, "one of the most significant French films of the 1970s". Jean-Louise Berthomé said, "I am not sure that La mama et la putain, with its romances of a poor young man of 1972, doesn't say something new." Pauline Kael praised the film, saying it reminded her of John Cassavetes in its ability "to put raw truth on the screen - including the boring and the trivial".
The film's reputation increased over time. In 1982 the literary magazine, Les Nouvelles Littéraires, celebrated the tenth anniversary of the film by publishing a series of articles on it.
|Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, Cannes