August 24, 2009

'Love' Emulates Life...a Bit Too Much

It turned out that Love on the Run was as good as I expected it to be--and as real.

It seems to me that director Francois Truffaut was incapable of fashioning an impersonal film. Love is no exception, though there was, perhaps, a bit less substance in this 1979 film, the last in his series of Antoine Doinel alter-ego pictures, as much of the flick comprised scenes from earlier films such as The 400 Blows and Bed and Board. What's moving about Love, however, is the fact that the film--which primarily is concerned with the romantic (mis)adventures of Doinel (portrayed, as always, by the ever-youthful Jean-Pierre Leaud)--reveals the protagonist as something of a lost soul, despite his maturity. Newly divorced, Doinel falls in love with seemingly every beautiful woman he meets...and even reconnects with an old flame who is coping with the tragic loss of her child.

Of course, such newfound erotic freedom doesn't seem to suit the rambling Antoine, who can't help but wreck his relationships through his infidelity. He has to start over--and that's where the movie hits hardest.

As an individual who has been through a divorce, I was empathetic, to a certain extent, with Doinel's travails, and nodded at his attempts to rebuild himself while somehow coming to terms with the highs and lows of his marital life. But this was hard to watch, as I predicted, and many of the scenes (including the positive memories recollected in fragments of Truffaut's earlier films in the series) were earnest almost to a fault. I'm not certain how much of Love was based on Truffaut's earlier experiences, but the flick had an honesty suggesting that the great director knew what he was talking about. There's even a scene in which the now fully grown Doinel has a chance meeting with his now aged stepfather, a complex figure in The 400 Blows who ultimately couldn't provide his stepson with a proper paternal governance. This segment is the most powerful in Love, and it also smacks of truth...and reality.

I wish there were more of that in contemporary film--but that would mean I would be less comfortable watching such movies. Still, I have to give Truffaut credit: Very few directors know how to make their audiences so ill at ease while ensuring their pictures remain enjoyable. That takes talent. I wish I knew Truffaut's secret.

Perhaps it has something to do with reality. And experience.

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