The late, great Maurice Pialat may well be the elliptical-realism source code for an entire generation of French filmmakers—his films are never merely stories, and each has the sense of having been edited down from a work twice as long by a seditionist revolted by narrative sutures, dramatic accumulation, and psychological clarity. Offscreen space and time are so voluminous that what we see feels like chance encounters, life glimpsed through a passing train’s windows. The central movie in his scant canon, and a generational touchstone in France, À Nos Amours (1983) may be its nation’s premier examination of familial breakdown (based upon the remembrances of screenwriter Arlette Langmann, sister to Claude Berri), and the greatest film ever made about the damage of awakening sexual power. French cinema is crowded with willful, scantily dressed gamines, but Sandrine Bonnaire, in her magnetic debut, busts the ideogram out into four real dimensions. The Criterion prizes, on a separate disc, include an insightful critical doc about the film, audition footage, and interviews with Pialat, Bonnaire, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Catherine Breillat.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 13, 2006