7 landmark performances by Jean-Pierre Léaud

#5 – THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE (1973) by Jean Eustache
There are two main reasons why, generally, films that surpass a conventional length, do so. One is that, a film might be a large-scale epic production. Another is that its prime goal, no matter the narrative, should be equally balanced by its underlying goal of recording and existence. In this case, a sense of realism is enhanced. And this is certainly the case with Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore, which in many ways, is the ultimate representation of a role ala Jean-Pierre Léaud.
Here, the intellectual, young man, spends his everyday life rambling about stuff, political or otherwise, on the cafés of Paris as much as in the bedrooms of his lovers. Obviously, casting Léaud was a no brainer. The beauty of the dialogue, which mixes casually happy lines and sad lines, is very similar to the fluidity of conversations of everyday lives. But more than that, the nature of the dialogue goes agains the romanticism of the representation of Paris. Much like in Masculin Feminin, in which Léaud had starred, the whole concept of intellectuality masks doubt and the unbearable fear of that feeling that life is simply passing you by. Much like the bars of anywhere else around the world (or most places anyways) the cafés are places where people essentially nothing of much significance ever materializes. And, of course, the essence of this representation in The Mother and the Whore, is that it is a damn shame.
But there is a further, dramatic air of poignancy added to the usual detachment with which Léaud plays his part. An instance where real life meets cinema in a physical way. A few years later, at the age of 43, Eustache would commit suicide. If Léaud, as he had in the past, indeed played the true role of the filmmaker, stepping inside his shoes, his turn in The Mother and the Whore was so real, that it ended up being tragically prophetic.

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