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We Won't Grow Old Together (DVD Review)

11 Aug, 2014 By: Mike Clark

Street 8/12/14
Kino Lorber
$29.95 DVD, $34.95 Blu-ray
Not rated
In French with English subtitles.
Stars Marlene Jobert, Jean Yanne, Macha Meril.

I’ve long thought Marlene Jobert was, in her heyday, one of the 10 hottest actresses in the history of world cinema, and the only reason this is more than just another example of Clark revisiting his hormones is its relevance to the premise of French writer-director Maurice Pialat’s highly autobiographical second feature (which makes this an honest movie). The crux of the story is the appalling degree to which a documentary filmmaker played by Jean Yanne mistreats his longtime girlfriend of humbler background (he’d likely demur) when just about anybody — and certainly her parents — can see that he’s the original hairy beast. And yes, Yanne is adorned here with follicles that more than rival what sometimes used to be called “the Sean Connery chest toupee.”

A personal favorite of mine, Pialat was known at times to take no prisoners in his stinging portrayals of familial or romantic relationships, with 1983’s A Nos Amours being perhaps the most emblematic when it comes to that trait or distinction. The well-titled Together is in that same ballpark whenever the older Yanne abuses his younger squeeze of six years over what he perceives as her shortcoming of the week (or even day) — things like not holding the mic correctly when she’s helping him sound recording; he also belts her around. They will argue, Jobert will tell Yanne she’s definitively leaving him … and then Pialat cuts to an unspecified future time when she’s giving him a warm greeting somewhere else. The first time Pialat did this, I thought, “What gives?’ Then he kept it up, and I realized that he is portraying another of those too-familiar relationships that keep on ticking, way out of proportion to their toxicity.

This is a French movie, so it shouldn’t floor anyone than Yanne has a pretty wife (Macha Meril) he long ago dumped for Jobert, which doesn’t keep the former from befriending not only her replacement but also Jobert’s mother as well. Yanne is such a heel that he even uses his ex-wife to run interference and destroy confidences when it comes to learning what his lover is up to (if anything) — though, again, he would be somewhat taken aback by the accusation in ways that perhaps aren’t totally feigned. He probably senses that she really will up and leave him at some point — though at one point, Jobert says that even if she marries someone else, she’ll still continue their affair. Later, this assertion finds a way to get revisited, with an intriguing payoff.

Jobert, now 73, is the mother of actress Eva Green, a former modern-era Bond Girl and star of the imminent Sin City: A Dame to Kill For who looks nothing like her. Kino’s release, which also contains a visual Pialat appreciation, also benefits from a 20-minute Jobert sit-down, where she says that scenes seemingly improvised here were actually constructed by the filmmaker with precision, something not uncommon from a filmmaker who wrote his own scripts. The characters’ relationship goes around and around in circles for a reason, but the potential monotony is largely abated (if not, inevitably, obliterated in full) because you sense that Pialat knew exactly what he wanted to put on screen even then. This is emotionally raw stuff — though sexually, it’s restrained even for the day despite the unrealized table-setting of Jobert bikini shots that definitely make up for the fall of Dien Bien Phu. All this aside, it is a high-voltage performance. Meanwhile, Yanne looks so typically sinister (I remember him from one of my favored Chabrols: This Man Must Die) that I was floored to read that he originally wanted to be a comedian. Jobert says in the interview that Yanne and Pialat clashed because the actor didn’t like doing the awful things the filmmaker was asking him to do.

The color palate here works but is so muted compared with other Pialats on disc that I wonder if it’s a fully accurate rendering — though director Alex Ross Perry, in a bonus appreciation, notes the film’s unfussy look. This said, there are a couple recent all-Region foreign Blu-rays of Police and Loulou that look sparkling enough to shave in (Studio Canal, baby) and a Region B version of Amours said to look smashing that I have on order. This is a welcome release, though, from a prematurely deceased filmmaker of limited output whose movies usually give me a lot to watch. This is definitely true here.

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