Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. France/Italy/West Germany, 1971. Nouvelles Editions de Films, Marianne Productions, Vides Cinematografica, Franz Seitz Filmproduktion. Screenplay by Louis Malle. Cinematography by Ricardo Aronovich. Produced by Vincent Malle, Claude Nedjar. Music by Sidney Bechet, Gaston Freche, Charlie Parker, Henri Poirier. Production Design by Jean-Jacques Caziot. Film Editing by Suzanne Baron. Academy Awards 1971. Cannes Film Festival 1971.
Louis Malle captures the wicked, wild vibrance of youth with this marvelous film, about a young boy (Benoît Ferreux) growing up as the last of three spoiled rotten sons in a Parisian bourgeois family. Their father spends most of his time occupied with his medical practice while their free-spirited Italian mother (Lea Massari) is so lax a disciplinarian (she relates to the boys more as friends than their mother) that they end up completely overwhelming her with their rebellious, frenetic energy. Ferreux is the least troublesome of the boys (which isn’t saying much), gaining the most amount of attention when doctors discover he has a heart murmur and send him and his mother to a health spa for a month. There, mother and son deepen their ties with each other, provoking a sexual awakening that will change the young man forever. Thankfully, Malle is so talented at dealing with any subject matter full-on and yet maintaining a level of healthy good taste that the film’s last third is one that would make Oedipus (and Jesus!) merely chuckle. Great acting, a pristine screenplay and some of the best direction of the master’s career.