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  Loulou Love Is Strange
Year: 1980
Director: Maurice Pialat
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand, Humbert Balsan, Bernard Tronczak, Christian Boucher, Frédérique Cerbonnet, Jacqueline Dufranne, Willy Safar, Agnès Rosier, Patricia Coulet
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Layabout Loulou (Gérard Depardieu) is awoken to meet the girlfriend he only tolerates complaining that he isn't showing her enough attention, and when he says he wishes to go out to a nightclub, she points out that he'll only dance with other women. This is true, and one woman he dances with is Nelly (Isabelle Huppert) who is there with her jealous husband André (Guy Marchand); Nelly enjoys herself, but André is dismayed at her choice and starts to push her around. This doesn't endear him to his wife, and she ends up spending the night in Loulou's bed - which collapses under their lovemaking - and when she returns to her apartment the next day, André pretends not to mind. This pretence doesn't last, of course...

With a title like Loulou, you might expect a dainty French drama about, I dunno, a ballet student perhaps, but the Loulou of the title is the uncouth, unemployed lump played by Depardieu. However, while the film might on first glance look to be as salty, rough and sexually charged as this character, like him it displays unexpected sensitivity as we get to know him better. Scripted by the director Maurice Pialat and Arlette Langmann, it sets itself up as a satire on France's pretentions to culture, portraying them in a poor light in comparison with the lower class honesty of Loulou.

André is the middle class, supposedly cultured husband frustrated to see his wife prefer the love of another man, and a man he looks down on at that. The story is only vaguely presented, so at times we are wondering what could be going on in Nelly's head as much as André does, yet despite this Huppert makes her seem consistent. She tells him that with Loulou, she can lock the door in the hotel room they have rented to stay in, and forget the troubles of the world as they enjoy each other's company, shall we say, and that seems to be the only explanation we get for her behaviour.

This can't last, thinks André, Nelly will soon grow bored, and he never tires of confronting her, once in the street which degenerates into a full blown brawl with both his wife and Loulou. Shortly after being defeated physically by the bigger man, André invites them to a nearby bar for a beer, but nevertheless gets no further. People in the film, friends of Loulou, drift in and out of the action, and Nelly tells André she'd rather have friendship than books, a quiet rejection of his ideals. And yet, she keeps hanging around him, even having sex with him, as if she can't quite leave him behind.

I said Loulou develops an unexpected sensitivity, and this occurs when Nelly tells him she is pregnant. This looks like it will make a new man of him, and Depardieu seamlessly moves from the self-centred to the more inclusive with the announcement. He makes plans for his new family, wanting to get a job to support them (Nelly has previously been supporting him, as far as I can tell), and getting all sentimental. But will Nelly have faith in this apparent change? Well, I'll just say the film has a bittersweet conclusion; as a slice of life some viewers may be wondering what the point of it all is, as we seem to end up back where we started, but the drama is never less than convincing thanks to the three principals, and has a way of enduring in the mind.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Maurice Pialat  (1925 - 2003)

This French writer and director, who started his career as a painter, was a difficult man by most accounts, and will probably be best remembered for such unsparing, verging-on-the-bleak 1980s films like Loulou, Police, À Nos Amours and Sous le Soleil du Satan, which won the Palme D'Or at Cannes.

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