Jean (Yanne) is a documentary filmmaker who’s been having an affair with the younger Catherine (Jobert) for several years. He is married to Francoise (Meril), who is rarely around and seems not to mind his dalliance. Jean is an angry, insecure man and treats Catherine abominably. They break up constantly, but somehow are drawn back together. Finally Jean’s abuse goes too far and Catherine finds the strength to leave him for good.
Pialat’s second feature was a deeply personal film, based in part on a recently ended relationship of his own; the film is startling in its raw honesty about the vicissitudes of love. With uncompromising beats, Pialat eschews a traditional narrative flow in favor of elliptical scenes that pile up on one another to create an amorphous glimpse into the messy, often disordered business of male/female relations. Yanne (“Le Boucher”) won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his unsympathetic performance. Jobert’s portrayal is quieter but no less effective, a tour de force of reaction and internal struggle. Though the film is challenging and confrontational in nature, Pialat’s final shots are nevertheless highly affecting, almost heartbreaking. Don’t grow old before catching this film!