From the Louis Malle boxset recently released and my viewing of the first.
Couldn't find a review of this in the film/director index.
MURMUR OF THE HEART (LA SOUFFLE AU COEUR) (1971) (France)
Director: Louis Malle
Its high comedy. Its French bourgeois lifestyle. Louis Malles delicate style of working with taboo subject matter reached a personal plateau with a dysfunctional household in Murmur of the Heart, an early reach back into his own garden of memories and familial idiosyncrasies that he has stringently plucked from over the years. He approaches it with an innocent intent, cheeky, but still innocent nonetheless. Through the nostalgic and mean-spirited jibes at the domestic help, clergy and stiff-lipped crust of high society, it commences on a journey of an adolescent male, Laurent Chevalier (Benoit Ferreux) in Dijon, France circa 1954. He longs to break free to that stage of enlightened adulthood that seems just within reach but yet so very far. But within its pith, its the very antithesis of melodrama. Taking on its inviolable subject matters horns with both hands, it wrangles it to the ground while giving us something to think about. Its definitely not about exorcising ghosts of the past but to let them regale us with stories of unforgettable youth.
After 35 years, Murmur of the Heart still rings truer and closer to home than most contemporary comedies (and even dramas) revolving around the coming of age and sexual awakening in a young teen. Its also more daring and liberal in its construction of key family members being part of that very natural formation of sexual DNA and identity. They discuss philosophy. They discuss suicide. They discuss The Story of O. Laurent and his 2 older brothers consort in disrespectfully petty behaviour contrary to what their upbringing holds sacred. Laurents a top student, an intellectual that sees the world around him as a playground. Its a smalltime superiority complex as he defines his sensitive sensibilities with discernment beyond his years and a haughty disregard for divergent thoughts with a self-important air.
Revolving primarily about Laurent and his mother, Clara (L avventuras Lea Massari), its a refreshing look at a parental relationship based around adoration and fondness (coming under constant mocking by his brothers) than the contemporaneous and contemptuous notion of disdain and rebelliousness surrounding the authority figures and generational gaps. It underlines the idiom of a mother being her sons first love. In its essence, it encapsulates many complicated mother-child relationships including the emotional Oedipal issues that do crop up. And through that, a lovely parallelism is wrought with its interpretation of a woman who wants to be a girl and a boy who wants to be a man.
Conforming to an almost sitcom style, its self-dependent, autonomous scenes and situations just about start to border on farcical proportions. Its characters place sex and carnality high up on a pedestal, while Malle condescendingly films it as something so pedestrian and run-of-the-mill, not worth the hype and excitement over it anyway. He makes the patient, inevitable buildup to a key sex scene that had caused controversy when it was first released, to seem more natural and accepting than he does the sexual encounters that actually do seem the norm in society.