Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Mother and the Whore


The Mother and the Whore functions as a virtual anthology of New Wave styles and themes. Its central figure, the bohemian Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Leaud), clearly believes that cinema is life, in a way that recalls Francois Truffaut's famous sentiment that film could be more intense and richer than life. In one beautiful moment (pictured above), Alexandre describes sitting in a cafe in May 1968, and noticing everyone crying: a tear-gas bomb had exploded. As he says, for a moment there was a "crack in reality"; not simply cracks in cinema (for example, the jump cuts a la Breathless), but in life. Alexandre admits he was terrified. The movies have not prepared him for this moment. We have seen, before this moment, how the themes of earlier New Wave directors have become embedded in his life: his friend's flirtation with Fascism, and the later revelation of a girlfriend's murder of her ex-lover, recalls Chabrol's films, and Les cousins in particular; all the ceaseless talk is like a somewhat more liberated variation on conversations in Rohmer; and the sheer duration of the film (four hours) recalls Rivette.Yet nobody in The Mother and the Whore goes to the movies anymore (although they talk about it a lot). As Alexandre discovers (not only in the cafe, but in his tumultuous relationship with a liberated woman, Veronika), revolutions in cinema cannot prepare you for revolutions in life.

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