The Mother and the Whore

1973 [FRENCH]

Drama / Romance

0
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 92%
IMDb Rating 7.8 10 5750

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Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN

Director

Top cast

Jean-Pierre Léaud as Alexandre

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 10 / 10

"In Paris, lovers have their own strange ways."

In what could have been seen as a coup towards the sexual "revolution" (purposefully I use quotations for that word), Jean Eustache wrote and directed The Mother and the Whore as a poetic, damning critique of those who can't seem to get enough love. If there is a message to this film- and I'd hope that the message would come only after the fact of what else this Ben-Hur length feature has to offer- it's that in order to love, honestly, there has to be some level of happiness, of real truth. Is it possible to have two lovers? Some can try, but what is the outcome if no one can really have what they really want, or feel they can even express to say what they want?

What is the truth in the relationships that Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Leaud) has with the women around him? He's a twenty-something pseudo-intellectual, not with any seeming job and he lives off of a woman, Marie (Bernadette Lafont) slightly older than him and is usually, if not always, his lover, his last possible love-of-his-life left him, and then right away he picks up a woman he sees on the street, Veronika (Françoise Lebrun), who perhaps reminds him of her. Soon what unfolds is the most subtly torrid love triangle ever put on film, where the psychological strings are pulled with the cruelest words and the slightest of gestures. At first we think it might be all about what will happen to Alexandre, but we're mistaken. The women are so essential to this question of love and sex that they have to be around, talking on and on, for something to sink in.

We're told that part of the sexual revolution, in theory if not entirely in practice (perhaps it was, I can't say having not been alive in the period to see it first-hand), was that freedom led to a lack of inhibitions. But Eustache's point, if not entirely message, is that it's practically impossible to have it both ways: you can't have people love you and expect to get the satisfaction of ultimate companionship that arrives with "f***ing", as the characters refer over and over again.

The Mother and the Whore's strengths as far as having the theme is expressing this dread beneath the promiscuity, the lack of monogamy, while also stimulating the intellect in the talkiest talk you've ever seen in a movie. At the same time we see a character like Alexandre, who probably loves to hear himself talk whether it's about some movie he saw or something bad from his past, Eustache makes it so that the film itself isn't pretentious- though it could appear to be- but that it's about pretentiousness, what lies beneath those who are covering up for their internal flaws, what they need to use when they're ultimately alone in the morning.

If you thought films like Before Sunrise/Sunset were talky relationship flicks, you haven't met this. But as Eustache revels in the dialogs these characters have, sometimes trivial, or 'deep', or sexual, or frank, or occasionally extremely (or in a subdued manner) emotional, it's never, ever uninteresting or boring. On the contrary, for those who can't get enough of a *good* talky film, it's exceptional. While his style doesn't call out to the audaciousness that came with his forerunners in the nouvelle vague a dozen years beforehand, Eustache's new-wave touch is with the characters, and then reverberating on them.

This is realism with a spike of attitude, with things at time scathing and sarcastic, crude and without shame in expression. All three of the actors are so glued to their characters that we can't ever perceive them as 'faking' an emotion or going at all into melodrama. It's almost TOO good in naturalistic/realism terms, but for Eustache's material there is no other way around it. Luckily Leaud delivers the crowning chip of his career of the period, and both ladies, particularly Labrun as the "whore" Veronika (a claim she staggeringly refutes in the film's climax of sorts in one unbroken shot). And, as another touch, every so often, the director will dip into a quiet moment of thought, of a character sitting by themselves, listening to a record, and in contemplation or quiet agony. This is probably the biggest influence on Jim Jarmusch, who dedicated his film Broken Flowers to Eustache and has one scene in particular that is lifted completely (and lovingly) in approach from the late Parisian.

Sad to say, before I saw Broken Flowers, I never heard of Eustache or this film, and procuring it has become quite a challenge (not available on US DVD, and on VHS so rare it took many months of tracking at various libraries). Not a minute of that time was wasted; the Mother and the Whore is truly beautiful work, one of the best of French relationship dramas, maybe even just one of the most staggeringly lucid I've seen from the country in general. It's complex, it's sweet, it's cold, it's absorbing, and it's very long, perhaps too long. It's also satisfying on the kind of level that I'd compare to Scenes from a Marriage; true revelations about the human condition continue to arise 35 years after each film's release.

Reviewed by brogmiller 2 / 10

'I cannot throw up when someone is looking at me'.

For reasons which I cannot fathom this terminally irritating opus was considered a milestone in post-New Wavelet film-making and even won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Director Jean Eustache has roped in a couple of chums, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Bernadette Lafont and a former lover named Francoise Lebrun. Léaud was fine as Truffaut's alter-ego but here his character is insufferable. His mystifying success with women is a very poor reflection on those women. Mlle Lebrun cannot act her way out of a paper bag but let us at least be grateful for small mercies in having the sexual charisma of Mlle Lafont to bring some much-needed 'brio' to the proceedings.

Just to sit through this dreary, self-indulgent, pretentious and interminable film, let alone review it, suggests a dedication far beyond the call of cinematic duty. Was it worth the effort? Chacun a son gout!

Reviewed by claudio_carvalho 5 / 10

The Overrated and Dull Sexual Adventures of a Pedantic Chauvinist

In Paris, the pedantic Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud) lives with his mate Marie (Bernadette Lafont) in her apartment, an open relationship. Alexandre, who is idle and chauvinist, spends his days reading, drinking and shagging women. After flirting with his former affair, Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten), who tells him that she will marry soon her boyfriend, Alexandre meets the Laenne Hospital nurse Veronika Osterwald (Françoise Lebrun) and they schedule a date. Alexandre learns that Veronika is a promiscuous woman that loves to shag and introduces her to Marie. They have a threesome and Alexandre has a crush on Veronika.

"La Maman et la Putain" is an overrated and dull French New Wave cult-movie by Jean Eustache about the sexual adventures of a pedantic chauvinist. I do not have the intention to offend the umpteen fans of this director and film, but I really did not like this long film of three and half hours. There are witty dialogs and situations, but in general I found it very dull with empty characters.

The expensive DVD released in Brazil by Lume Distributor is a shameful recording of French television broadcasting with an announcement in the credits. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): "A Mãe e a Puta" ("The Mother and the Whore")

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