Judge P.S. Colbert would like to thank his lovely wife (again) for letting him sleep in the house on especially rainy nights.
"We had broken up for good just an hour before…"—Greg Kihn Band, "The Breakup Song"
"I loved her. I thought it would go on forever, even if I said otherwise."—Jean (Jean Yanne, Weekend).
Boy, howdy! That he "said otherwise" suggests an understatement that borders on the delusional. In fact, Jean—a long-married, frustrated filmmaker closing in on forty—subjects his young mistress Catherine (Marlène Jobert, Masculin Feminin) to such an over-abundance of undiluted scorn that I wouldn't have blamed her for murdering him well before We Won't Grow Old Together reached its half-way mark.
Needless to say, it's neither Love Story, The Story Of Us, nor The War of the Roses. In fact, unlike those, this extremely autobiographic essay (written and directed by Maurice Pialat, L'Enfance Nue,) isn't strictly the story of a relationship, but rather, a birds-eye view of one's agonizing erosion.
This degradation (a word that applies for a multitude of reasons) is demonstrated through a series of scenes that may or may not have their own chronological logic for Pialat, but otherwise don't appear to be in any particular order, narratively speaking. What's more, the trajectory of most scenes isn't particularly variable, never mind pleasant. Yes—for once—all that hype about a film experience like no other actually rings true.
I had the extremely uncomfortable feeling that my grave was being excessively trod upon throughout the film's deceptively brief 106 minute span, and unless you've been spectacularly lucky in love (or if you've never messed with the stuff), you're also bound to see at least a bit of yourself in the yings and yangs of this passionate, if ultimately poisonous, six-year tryst between a walking tinderbox and his masochistic waif.
Not to worry, though, ladies: rest assured, the worm turns. Indeed, it's perhaps the film's greatest strength that once the roles are reversed, it neither devolves into simplistic revenge fantasy nor does it sacrifice one whit of its furious power.
We Won't Grow Old Together looks great on Blu-Ray; the 1080p MPEG 4 AVC transfer faithfully delivers the stark compositions (by Luciano Tovoli, Titus) that perfectly match the unadorned on-screen proceedings. Keep in mind that this is a 1972 release, so grade on a curve, but frankly, I was so emotionally involved that any minute video imperfections got right past me. The sound is clear and clean, with little in the way of fancy audio frippery, befitting a dialogue-heavy tale with almost no musical relief.
Extras include the original theatrical trailer (very much a period piece, and an absolute gem that let French audiences know exactly what they were in for up front), and a brilliantly illuminating 20 minute modern-day interview with Jobert. Finally, an oddity: A brief "video appreciation" by independent filmmaker Alex Ross Perry, who shrilly intones his prepared text over shots from Pialat's masterwork (while cleverly getting in a couple of plugs for his latest feature, Listen Up Philip). Perry nonetheless makes some informed observations before letting his passion get the better of him and asserting that anyone who doesn't appreciate this film in exactly the way he does is grossly deficient, at best.
I wouldn't go that far. People tend towards movies for different reasons; with various goals in mind. The absolute fidelity Yanne and Jobert pledge to playing their respective roles here would be useless and lost upon viewers all psyched up for some good ol' color-saturated, whimsical escapism—and God help those in search of a great "date movie" from loading this into their players!
I could say, on balance, that Pialat might have devoted at least a bit more time to showing his audience what kept Jean and Catherine together for so long in the first place, but I'd just be finding fault where it doesn't exist. Painful as it is to endure, We Won't Grow Old Together hits every mark it means to, and in a way no other film does, thus qualifying it as (dare I say?) a perfect film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Kino Lorber
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