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August 12, 2014

We Won't Grow Old Together


Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble
Maurice Pialat - 1972
Kino Classics BD Region A

The first thing I noticed was the frequency of blue. The blue came was in various shades - turquoise, powder, royal blue. The blues as it were would mostly be seen as part of the Jean's life - his shirts, bed sheets, table cloth, and his car. Probably not surprising considering that Jean is essentially the on-screen proxy for Maurice Pialat, not the happiest of men.

This was was first time seeing this film, though not my first exposure to Pialat. It took me a while to get into the rhythm established by Pialat. The narrative as such is a series of meetings and partings, sometimes within the same scene, of Jean, a documentarian, and Catherine, a younger woman who hasn't quite figured out what she wants to do with her life. The two aren't happy with each other, nor happy without each other. Jean is especially brutal at times, both verbally and physically towards Catherine. It is only through the dialogue that one understands that years have passed. The film begins when Catherine and Jean have been together for three years, and the next three are an irretrievable downward slide.

we won't grow old together.jpg

In one scene, Jean refers to the Italian poet Cesare Pavese. An interesting choice in that Pavese was simultaneously a romantic, yet held most people at arms length, a celebrity during his lifetime with a very public, failed relationship with actress Constance Dowling. A prize winning writer, Pavese committed suicide at the peak of his career. In somewhat similar fashion, Jean wants the companionship of Catherine, yet can't get her out of his apartment, his car or his life, fast enough.

The supplements, Nick Pinkerton's booklet notes, and a video essay by filmmaker Alex Ross Perry, are helpful in discussing the unusual structure of the film. There is also an interview, from 2003, with Marlene Jobert, discussing the conflicts between Pialat and Jean Yanne, who played Jean, and her own attraction to playing the part of Catherine. A hint for the youngsters - if you want to know where Eva Green got her looks, Jobert is her mom.

One of the surprises was to know that Luciano Tovoli was the cinematographer. Better known for more stylized work with Antonioni, Argento and others, the visual look here is stripped down, seemingly artless. This is not to imply carelessness, far from it. The shots are carefully composed on behalf of the interactions mostly between Jean and Catherine. While the hirsute Jean Yanne does much of his acting with his body, Marlene Jobert's acting can be seen in the various small facial expressions while she is being berated. This is not an easy film to watch, but Maurice Pialat would not have it any other way.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at August 12, 2014 07:34 AM