Moderato Cantabile (Seven Days… Seven Nights) (1960)

PETER BROOK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBFrance/Italy, 1960, Screenplay by , , based on the novel by Marguerite Duras.  Cinematography by Produced by Production Design by Film Editing by Cannes Film Festival 1960

Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Paul Belmondo in Moderato Cantabile

In a small, rainy hamlet centered around a steel mill, the owner’s wife () has little more to do than give dinner parties in her isolated country mansion when she is not taking her son to his piano lessons in town. On a mundane afternoon following a lesson, she is drawn to a local bar where a murder has just occurred, a man killing his wife presumably after an argument. Moreau is among the fray of people who witness the culprit’s being arrested and taken away by the police, as is , with whom she has a drink and begins to discuss the scene they just witnessed. He at first seems to know the details behind the killing, but then it turns out he’s actually just inventing the backstory of the couple, which turns her bored mind on and Moreau begins to spend more and more time getting together for drinks with this handsome man as they first describe and then begin to act out their fantasies of this troubled relationship. Marguerite Duras repeats the formula of Hiroshima Mon Amour with another tale of a couple drawn together as much by their physical attraction as they are by their erotically-charged exchange of personal narratives, though with someone as reserved as Peter Brook behind the camera, and not the passionate experimentation of Alain Resnais as the last time around, it’s not as sexy an experience and these gorgeous actors somehow manage to not have much chemistry between them. Moreau, who won a performance award at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, is wonderfully sincere in the role, but Brook isn’t as fascinated with her complexity as Malle was the year before in Elevator To The Gallows, the exploration of her as a provincial bourgeoise plays out in predictable ways that fail to hint at anything particularly transgressive or complex. Belmondo is given even less substance to work with, he seems to just be happy to show up and get some action, but despite all this and the steely-gray photography, the film does manage its moments of pleasure.

 

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