The Sunday Cult Film Corner “Le Souffle Au Cœur (Murmur of the Heart) (1971)”

26 Feb

God i feel like shit.

This is now officially the worst bout of insomnia i’Ve experienced  so far. I didn’t get to bed till well after 5am this morning, but could only squeeze out a few restless hours of bed tossing. My eyes feel like someone had pissed in them, and i’M on the verge of throwing up at any moment.

This is the perfect set up to try to watch an intelligent, human film,. when all i really want to do is watch Ulysses 31 on permanent loop. But i can’t let my baying readership down, so i have dragged my psyche up by the bootstraps and present to you a superb coming of age classic from Franceland and stuff. Ladies and Gentlemen, i give you LE SOUFFLE AU CÆUR (trans: Murmur of the Heart)

Directed in 1971 by the great Franco-director Louis Malle it tell of the trials and tribulations of Laurent, a teenage boy living with a well to do family in ’50s France. He has a tough time of it. While having to deal with growing up as a teenager and losing his virginity, he has two rough housing brothers who constantly take the piss out of him, a distant father and a clingy Italian mother. And to top it off, he is found to have a murmur of the heart after falling ill with scarlet fever, leading to him being packed of to a sanatorium. What happens there is both touching and shocking in equal measure

I first saw “Murmur of the Heart” when i was 12 years old, late at night on UK’s Channel 4 (the fact that they did away with their world cinema seasons to make way for the likes of Big brother is still one of the great travesties of UK culture IMHO) and it had a rather profound effect on me. As well as a being a coming of age drama, It shows France at a time on moral and spiritual conflict. The old ways of France, the church and wars in faraway lands (Laurent takes part in raising money for French colonies in Indochina and attend church as an altar boy) are threatened by new cultures such as Jazz music and Camus, and freer sense of living. This is perfectly shown by the opening credits of him wandering around town in his school uniform, while Charlie Parker blares i the background.

Murmur of the heart is also an incredibly frank film about growing up that caused a fair bit of controversy when it first came out. Even though it’s the 50s, Laurent does stuff that would make todays parent despair. He starts smoking drinking and almost sleeps with a prostitute in a brothel (although this is France, so it all seems to look normal). But there is no hectoring or moralising here. It just shows the trials and tribulations that all teenagers seems to face in an honest (albeit Cool French bourgeois way).

Even though it runs at nearly 2 hours, it doesn’t feel slow or forced. It’s a wonderful piece of natural storytelling. You should get a nice glass of claret and some cool modal jazz, and watch a true New Wave slow burner…

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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Film


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