Featuring arguably a career-best performance by Romy Schneider, Zulawski’s work here is enigmatic and indescribably haunting as it dissects the meaning of love and desire through the psychological destabilisation of its characters.
Dir. Andrzej Zulawski
1975 | France | Drama | 109 mins | 1.85:1 | French
Not rated – likely to exceed R21 guidelines
Cast: Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, Jacques Dutronc, Klaus Kinski, Claude Dauphin
Plot: When an unhappy softcore actress becomes the obsession of a paparazzo, he proceeds to borrow money from his underworld employer to launch an experimental stage production for her.
Distributor: UCM One
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature – Desires, Love, Psychology
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
I used to be put off by Andrzej Zulawski in the past, but after seeing On the Silver Globe (1988) and this film, I’m beginning to appreciate his approach to cinema, which can be rather difficult ascribing any definitive descriptors to.
In That Most Important Thing: Love, his elusiveness as a filmmaker is there for all to see. At first instance, one might draw similarities with Godard’s Contempt (1963) as it follows a couple falling apart.
Furthermore, Zulawski used the same composer in Georges Delerue, who produced music, particularly his strings arrangement, that was no different in tone. Love was also a French co-production and shot entirely in French, giving a kind of French New Wave-y vibe.
If Contempt was grandiose in its portrayal of intimacy and disintegration, then Love is its antithesis. Zulawski wasn’t content with just bold filmmaking, he sought to capture and portray the enigmatic in cinema.
“I’m neither a victim nor a prisoner. My life is what it is even if you don’t think it’s a success.”
Featuring arguably a career-best performance by Romy Schneider, who plays Nadine, a troubled wife who is a struggling soft-core porn actress, Love is a brutal dissection of the meaning of love and desire as Nadine, her husband and a young photographer form a ‘love triangle’.
There is nary a sex scene that might suggest an illicit affair, which is a masterstroke by Zulawski, as he builds a narrative out of psychological destabilisation, where the characters exist beyond torment, where the prospects of both pleasure and pain feed into a single stream of consciousness.
Sure, humans want to love and be desired, but Zulawski seemed to want to make the point that humans aren’t really ready to experience all that without first accepting the fact these are nebulous notions to begin with, that they are beyond rationality.
Just saw this film, and I was pretty nonplussed until I read your insights – most helpful, thank you.
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Thanks for reading. I’m still trying to get Zulawski. I have had an easier time with some other Polish directors of that generation!