Every Man for Himself: The Films of Maurice Pialat

The work of director Maurice Pialat (1925-2003) is sufficiently celebrated in France to have generated an exhaustive Web site (www.maurice-pialat.net) and two DVD box sets. But his name is far from familiar here, and this complete retrospective of his dramatic features–running Friday, April 22, through Tuesday, May 3, at Facets Cinematheque–is long overdue. Some fans prefer Pialat’s more mannerist late work, but I’d give the edge to his 70s output, covered this week. All films are in French with subtitles; for more information and a complete schedule visit www.facets.org.

A volatile realist who’s often been compared to John Cassavetes, Pialat started out as a painter and a documentary filmmaker, though in contrast to most realist works (as well as most paintings) his movies are too intimate to date very much. He was 43 when he made his first feature, Naked Childhood (1968, 82 min.), a nonjudgmental and unsentimental look at a troubled, abandoned ten-year-old boy who’s shuttled between foster parents. (Francois Truffaut served as coproducer, though Pialat was a sworn enemy of the New Wave.) Pialat adapted his own autobiographical novel for We Will Not Grow Old Together (1972, 107 min.), a devastating chronicle of a long-term affair that can neither survive nor end, powerfully played by Jean Yanne and Marlene Jobert. The Mouth Agape (1974, 82 min.), my favorite, concerns a middle-aged woman dying of cancer and how her illness affects her husband and son; its details about sex as well as death are recognizable, embarrassing, moving, and occasionally funny. Graduate First (1979, 85 min.) treats youthful sex as the only activity worth pursuing in the provinces, and the major obstacle to escaping from them.

Loulou (1980, 110 min.), about a middle-class woman (Isabelle Huppert) leaving her husband for a working-class lout (Gerard Depardieu), has been praised by Dave Kehr as “a study in erotic revolution . . . one of the most original French films of the period.” He was equally enthusiastic about A nos amours (1983, 102 min.), with Pialat discovery Sandrine Bonnaire as a promiscuous 15-year-old and the director himself as her father: “The narrative has a quirky, self-propelling quality that allows for some astonishing things to happen.” Also screening this week is the first installment of Pialat’s 1971 TV miniseries The House in the Woods (see regular listings).

This week

Graduate First

Mon 4/25, 9 PM; Thu 4/28, 9 PM

The House in the Woods, Part One

Sun 4/24, 3 PM


Sat 4/23, 6:45 and 9 PM

The Mouth Agape

Mon 4/25, 7 PM; Thu 4/28, 7 PM

Naked Childhood

Fri 4/22, 7 PM; Tue 4/26, 7 PM

A nos amours

Wed 4/27, 7 and 9 PM

We Will Not Grow Old Together

Fri 4/22, 9 PM; Tue 4/26, 9 PM

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