À nos amours: The Criterion Collection
Cinema has always been the playground of men. Even today, only a small percentage of filmmakers are women, and as such, films that deal with people losing their virginity tend to be told from the male perspective. They tend to be about pressures on a male to get it over with, the voyeuristic delights of first contacts, and often an entire narrative will revolve around characters "losing it," and it's usually a triumph when it occurs. Whereas when young women have sex for the first time, it's often to show how unprepared they were for the sexual world. What makes Maurice Pialat's 1983 À nos amours ("to our loves") so remarkable is that the main character has sex without getting pregnant or suffering any dire consequences to her health. Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire, in a career-making performance) first has sex with a sailor and finds that she likes it, but she abandons her then-boyfriend Luc (Cyr Boitard) to go from fling to fling. Her father (played by director Pialat) is deeply upset with her for engaging in such trysts, but as his marriage is falling apart, he accepts it begrudgingly. But her mother (Evelyn Ker) is furious with her, both for her philandering ways and because she's jealous, while her brother Robert (Dominique Besnehard) at first stays quiet, but the mounting family tensions set him lose on his sister. The two directors Maurice Pialat are most often compared to are Jean Renoir and John Cassavetes, and it's easy to see why. Like Renoir, Pialat is fascinated with the human condition, and he lets his characters "have their reasons," but like Cassavetes, he's also interested in the moment, and in the raw emotions that come out of disharmony. Here, it is everyone around Suzanne who cannot handle her sexuality, which acts as a mirror to the family, forcing them to face their own sexual needs. Suzanne is simply doing what she wants, and she isn't being objectified by the film, nor does she degrade herself when one affair goes poorly she simply shrugs it off. Pialat co-scripted the film with Arlette Langmann, who based much of the character on her own adolescence. It's a bold take, though by having Pialat play the father and with his appearance at the end of the film arguably it's from the perspective of the father who accepts with wearied resignation that his daughter is no longer a girl, and thus now must embrace that she has become a sexual creature. Such could still place À nos amours in the male eye, but with a performance as real and as deeply felt as Bonnaire's, it does little to take away from a provocative and honest take on teenage sexuality. The Criterion Collection presents the film in a two-disc set, with the first housing the feature in a good anamorphic transfer (1.66:1) with monaural French audio and optional English subtitles, along with the theatrical trailer. The second disc kicks off with "The Human Eye," which talks to many of the cast and crew, and offers a dissection of what the film is about (55 min.). "Maurice Pialat on Set" offers period interview footage with the director (12 min.). "Sandrine Bonnaire" offers reflects from the star on the film and her relationship with Pialat (17 min.), while French director "Catherine Breillat" offers an appreciation of the film, and her relationship with the director (11 min.). Also offering an appreciation is "Jean-Pierre Gorin" (12 min.). But perhaps most revealing of al is the audition footage (21 min.), which shows the cast beginning to congeal. Dual-DVD keep-case.