Maurice Pialat (France, 1980)
A favorite from PFA's recent Maurice Pialat retrospective. In a crowded nightclub, Nelly (Huppert), bourgeois-bred and married to an advertising executive, is taking her passions out for air. She finds herself dancing with a happy, drunken lout, leaves with him, and stays with him. Maurice Pialat, consummate director of character, explores a woman's multifarious desires for sexual liberation in Loulou. (The film is drawn from the life of the screenwriter Arlette Langmann.) Though the title carries the name of Gérard Depardieu's leather-jacketed lothario Loulou, it is as object, not subject. Depardieu graciously plays along, before our eyes calibrating his outsized, undereducated, hypersexual character to Huppert/Nelly's perception of him. For her part, Nelly strives to be—well, to be Jeanne from La cérémonie (see June 30), even as she and Loulou make stabs at normal living. If there is a question in this film, it is how much Nelly will shape-change before desire is played out.
• Written by Arlette Langmann, Pialat. Photographed by Pierre-William Glenn, Jacques Loiseleux. With Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand, Humbert Balsan. (101 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission New Yorker)