As a precocious 14-year-old in mid-fifties France, Laurent (Ferreux) is obsessed with the music of Charlie Parker — and with losing his virginity. After a bungled attempt in a house of prostitution, Laurent experiences a highly unusual sexual awakening when he contracts scarlet fever and is sent to recuperate at a health spa, accompanied by his free-spirited, sensual young mother and confidante, Clara (Massari).
Criticized in 1971 for daring to deal with the theme of incest, Malle's "Murmur" is actually a sparkling French comedy notable for its wit, sensitivity, and energetic jazz soundtrack. Writer-director Malle approaches the awkwardness of adolescence with honesty and cheeky humor — as when Laurent drinks, smokes, and attempts to quench his carnal desires on an outing with his older brothers — but also subtlety, especially in the film's trickiest turn of events. Ferreux and Massari have an undeniable chemistry that feels genuine rather than manipulative or shocking, letting Malle put an unusually fresh spin on the sexual coming-of-age drama. For a fond, funny take on teen innocence, "Murmur of the Heart" is made to order.