Thursday, November 23, 2006

LOULOU - still compelling after 26 years

LOULOU is a 26 year old French movie starring a young Isabelle Huppert as Nelly, a frustrated bourgeouis woman married to Guy Marchand's André. At a disco, Nelly meets Loulou - a physically attractive working-class yob played by a shockingly young Gérard Depardieu. Nelly leaves her rich but boring husband for a life of sexual satisfaction. The film plots the consequences of this decision, not least her continued sado-masochistic emotional relationship André.

Loulou is a complete layabout. He is content to sponge off Nelly and even when she falls pregnant and her kindly brother offers to set him up in business he shows no inclination to work. But there is nothing malicious in this. Part of the magic of Depardieu's performance is that Loulou is so charming - so funny, so attractive - that the audience can forgive him his inability to plan for the future. And besides, Loulou is no idiot - when he does occasionally reflect on his situation he is very perceptive and objective about what Nelly wants from the relationship. As for Nelly, this is another classic Huppert role. Her relationship with her ex reminded me not a little of her more recent role in GABRIELLE. The interesting part of both films is how the wife continues to torment the husband after the act of betrayal, and how both husbands are still addicted to their wives.

But in style, this film could not be further from GABRIELLE. LOULOU is filmed in a relaxed, intimate documentary style that suits the material. The camera seems to take on Loulou's freewheeling style, moving fluidly between characters. The lighting is naturalistic and in some cases non-existent, giving us a lot of night scenes that are almost entirely black. This and the seemingly improvised nature of the dialogue in the some of the group scenes gives the movie a relaxed intimacy. It really is a pleasure to watch.

LOULOU was originally released in 1980. It is currently in an extended run at the National Film Theatre as part of their Isabelle Huppert season.

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