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Murmur of the Heart Movie Review

malle film louis mother

You can make a comedy about any subject, but getting audiences to watch it is a whole other problem. In 1971, Louis Malle wrote and directed Murmur of the Heart, about a young boy with a heart condition who winds up in bed with his ravishing mother. The French Movie Commission wanted to ban the film, but later decided to restrict attendance to adult audiences. Those who actually saw the movie in France and America loved it, but Murmur was then, and remains today, a classic seen by very few people. Only an artist like the late Louis Malle could attempt such a tricky project, much less get away with it. The director wisely decides to stick with the kid and we see his life through his eyes. Because of his delicate condition, he is an outsider. Because his mother is an Italian married to a Frenchman, her status is also that of an outsider. When they go off to the country together for his health, their shared isolation forces him to see her as a person rather than as only his mother. His charming Mama (wonderfully played by Lea Massari) is pretty much a mystery, but it's obvious that she's a good soul and so is her son. Nothing very tragic is going to come of anything that happens between these two. The director knows exactly when enough is enough, throughout the entire narrative. There isn't an image, a gesture, or a line that's even mildly gratuitous. The first time you see Murmur, you may watch the proceedings wondering when the director is going to stumble. He never does. The second time you see it, it'll be obvious that all Malle's skill went into developing his likable characters and their unusual situation. The comic outcome, improbable in real life, works beautifully as a film fantasy. AKA: Dearest Love; Le Souffle au Coeur.

1971 (R) 118m/C FR Benoit Ferreux, Daniel Gelin, Lea Massari, Corinne Kersten, Jacqueline Chauveau, Marc Wincourt, Michael (Michel) Lonsdale; D: Louis Malle; W: Louis Malle; C: Ricardo Aronovich; M: Charlie Parker. Nominations: Academy Awards ‘72: Best Story & Screenplay; Cannes Film Festival ‘71: Best Film. VHS, LV

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