Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 1. March 3 1968
Crutch — Held Camera From Europe
Crutch — Held Camera From Europe
Compared to most other Cannes Festival Grand Prix winners. Claude Lelouch's A Man And A Woman is lightweight stuff indeed, but I enjoyed this film more than The Knack and Blow Up, if not as much as Visconti's mutilated but magnificent valediction to a dying age and race. The Leopard. A Man And A Woman has been described as a 'woman's picture', in the same way. for example. as Dear John can be considered a woman's magazine (Gillian Freeman type) view of sex. The description is probably justified, although in a way it's rewarding to discover that someone still thinks it worthwhile to make a sentimental saga with a happy ending. After all. the romance/separation/reconciliation has been staple diet (and financial crust) for decades.
The inevitable reaction to this cliché led. inevitably, to another cliché — the doomed affair. A Man And A Woman is a welcome return to the earlier form and. as such, is nostalgic in tone, recalling some of those memorable weepies of Aulde Hollywood.
Considered from the point of view of narrative and character development. A Man And A Woman looks like something out of Belsen. Lelouch doesn't seem much interested in the psychological and social implications of the lovers' affair. Rather, he uses the story to demonstrate various aspects of the cinematographer's art. The camera techniques range from old hat to new wave, as in the photracted use of the two-shot during the various dialogues in the car (with regular cutting from one character to the other). and the very snappy handheld work around the race track. These different methods have their point: the car scenes have an enclosed, 'intimate feel about them (but why the interminable rain and wind-screen wipers?), while many of the race shots look like newsreel footage.
I didn't particularly like Lelouch's extensive use of telephoto lenses. It could be claimed that here we are meant to have the impression of observing the relationship from afar rather than being a prying part of it. but the cost is an excessive distortion of the visual perspective.
Lelouch employs a wide range of colour and monochrome photography, intending to clarify and heighten the changing moods of the film. At times this device seems to have little point to it. although there is one telling justification when the lovers are in bed for the first time. Their unsuccessful attempts at emotional and physical communion, in amber tones, contrasts most effectively with her inter-cut memories of love-making in the snow with her husband — a clear vision in full colour.
Lelouch's preoccupation with the visual surface of the film occasionally produced some longeurs. The beauty of some of the shots presumably appealed to him so much that he gives us more than ample time to savour their delights. Some of the views of the man and his dog on the beach, for example, go on and on — and on. In contrast, the best scene in the film is conventionally dramatic — the gruelling moments in the hospital when the wife goes there after the accident. Lelouch and Valerie Legrange handle this scene extremely well.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimee as the lovers are natural and quite charming, if perhaps a little too coy in gesture and mannerism. Some of the dubbing is pretty bad. although the two children are served well by it in the delightful scene in the restaurant.
I liked this film for its predominantly tender mood and Lelouch's unabashed enthusiasm for the medium. One friend dismissed A Man And A Woman as soap-opera with trimmings, while another, a professional cameraman, emerged from the theatre wearing an expression of appreciative beatitude. These reactions reflect the fact that the film will appeal to some as an exposition of cinematic technique, or as a tastefully handled sentimental romance, just as it will infuriate many others who don't like the genre in the first place.
To make my prejudice clear at the outset: I wasn't particularly enthralled at the idea of seeing Mai Zetterling's first feature, Loving Couples. Brooding essays in Scandinavian asceticism are not exactly my cup of tea, as I've pointed out a number of times before. (Those wanting 'objective' criticism are here advised to turn the page.) Loving Couples has been described elsewhere as 'very accomplished' and so on. but I found the story clumsily told (more flashbacks within flashbacks). gratuitous, and. for the most part, unbearably dull.