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  That Most Important Thing: Love Hate To Love You
Year: 1975
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Stars: Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, Claude Dauphin, Roger Blin, Gabrielle Doulcet, Michel Robin, Guy Mairesse, Katia Tchenko, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Klaus Kinski, Paul Bisciglia, Sylvain Levignac, Olga Valéry, Jacques Boudet, Robert Dadiès
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nadine Chevalier (Romy Schneider) is an actress who dreams of better roles, for despite having started promisingly, she has wound up in a series of sleazy pornographic films that are doing her mental health no good whatsoever. Today she is playing a scene where her character is expected to have sex with a bloodstained near-corpse, and understandably is having trouble working up the right frame of mind to turn on the passion; not helping is the presence of Servais Mont (Fabio Testi), a photographer who has snuck onto the set to capture a few snaps of her. Some of the crew chase him away from her, then beat him up, but he is in no better a place, trapped in a world of porn too.

For some, director Andrzej Zulawski never made a better film than That Most Important Thing: Love, one of his accustomed excoriations of love where his bracingly honest depiction of romances that barely qualified in that status reached an early high note - or a booming low one. One of the films he made as an exile from his native Poland, you could understand why he was not in a great place considering how life had been treating him recently, but for many film buffs his complete lack of dewy-eyed affection in the portrayal of what effectively was a love triangle was among the greatest achievements of French cinema of the nineteen-seventies, though it never rose above a cult of fans.

In truth, this was such a downer that it almost resembled a parody of arthouse glumfests, the misery the characters endure simply because they want to be loved and love in return so abyssally bleak that you began to worry for the participants. Romy Schneider was wont to claim it was her best acting performance, a conscious effort to get Continental audiences to stop identifying her as Sissi, her breakthrough role when she was a starlet, but naturally, the film the public know you for is not always in your hands, and many of her followers would look at this and wonder, what have they done to poor Sissi? Regardless of her ability to lose herself in different characters, this never took over.

But then, Schneider probably saw a lot of herself in Nadine anyway, as she would be dead by her own hand in a few short years, unable to face life anymore, a fate that suited her stylings here more than was comfortable to watch. Nadine's husband is Jacques, played by singer Jacques Dutronc, who is in his own world of pain as all three principals are here, considering ending it all and only holding on thanks to his love for his wife, herself barely keeping it together. When Servais enters the picture, he naturally sees a lot of his plight in Nadine's, for he is stuck making porn too, an example of the degradation we must go through to get by in this world that love can elevate and allow us to rise above. But he wants to help her out, so borrows a sum from loan sharks to fund a proper theatre role for her.

If this was not depressing enough as it was, there were chinks of light amongst the despair, one of them from a surprising place: Klaus Kinski. The old reprobate was not in this very much, but when he was he actually delivered one of his best performances as the dapper, flamboyant lead actor they hire to play Richard III in this Shakespeare adaptation Nadine is to appear in. When the reviews come in and they are not good (because obviously it would kill this film to give anyone a break), Kinski had a great scene where he doesn't take this very well, and proceeds to pick a fight with two revellers over utter trivia, beats them soundly and waltzes off with their girlfriends, arm in arm. A sense of humour like that was a welcome break from Schneider breaking down in tears - she was seriously committed, there was no doubt about that - and despite the events of the last act there maybe was the hope that love could compensate for the horrendousness we have to prevail through before death, but you have to be of robust philosophy to appreciate this film. Music by Georges Delerue.

Aka: L'important c'est d'aimer
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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