Jean Eustache - La maman et la putain (1973), 6/10

Eustache’s film, largely consisting of monologue and almost entirely consisting of lofty conversations, remains surprisingly engaging for its entirely lengthy run time. The relationships are compelling despite sometimes appearing too scattered and tackling a very broad range of themes in rapid succession. There are also some nice touches in detail such as Alexandre’s consistent reading of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time or the various music selections on the record player, including the albums decorating the room. Most of Alexandre’s monologues are interesting but unmoving with one or two exceptions, but over the span of almost four hours that isn’t quite enough to call them great. The script is indulgent to the extent that it is overly self-involved for most of the film until two climactic moments: Alexandre’s monologue in the café about his past and Veronika’s closing remarks. It has some nice moments of sobriety but mostly flirts with lofty ideals particular to France during this period rather than tackling universal concepts, apart from the overarching theme of lust and love, in addition to some impactful moments of individual relatability. For instance, Alexandre’s proclamation, “I am a poor, mediocre man. A poor, mediocre girl wants to see me. Well, I like that” in opposition to painful isolation and longing for others, or the numbing of television, music, or drink is practically a universal pain. Still, his completely selfish outlook and perspective on life can become grating in certain situations despite its necessary and philosophically interesting place. Sometimes the script comes across more like a novel than a film, especially with the lack of cinematography throughout most of the experience. This is repeated many times whether it is his lecturing about politics, film, his criticisms of Sartre, love, or sex. The exploration of the Madonna and the whore through literal means gives the story credence and makes its ending much more impactful. Alexandre’s choice to abandon Marie for Veronika, especially with the contemporary flourish of her pregnancy with a resulting breakdown, makes the buildup and relational tension worthwhile. Although the film itself could be edited down substantially and retain much of its meaning, it has a certain charm that continues to build in a realistic way despite its repetitious dialogue. It is mostly held back by its theoretical approach to narrative and its medium. Still a fantastic film that explores and celebrates realistic modern love.