Not Coming to a Theater Near You Two-Thousand Eleven In Review

February Twenty-Fourth Two-Thousand Eleven

by Veronika Ferdman Out of the collection of horror sounds and images that have found their ways to my retina this year, or any other, the plethora of stabbing, flaying, screaming, running, pleading, bleeding, and eviscerating, in black and white, in lurid neon and sepia, nothing scares me or has stayed with me longer than the last few minutes of Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore. Los Angeles’s Cinefamily played it in February, as part of their L’Amour Fou French cinema series. I’ve seen films in that theater with less than 15 people in the audience, but The Mother and the Whore screening was completely packed, teeming. Though the film is about/telegraphs the end of ideals (social, political, personal), the screening itself resolutely points to a gleeful continuance, a future for cinephilia and repertory theaters, someway, somehow, despite all the technological and social turmoil.

Eustache presents 217 minutes of characters waist deep in disillusionment with the world, society, and themselves. The last few minutes come as a death’s rattle stab at forging a relationship, at establishing meaning—at using the words and traditions of generations past to dress the wounds of the present. Alexandre (Jean Pierre-Leaud), having vacillated between Marie/the mother (Berndatte Lafonte) and Veronika/the whore (Françoise Lebrun), learns that Veronika is pregnant. My memory may have fogged some of the specifics, but as I remember it, they argue, and he follows her into her apartment wherein he insists that they get married. She responds by laughing in pain, disgust, affirmation, and proceeds to vomit, while Alexandre sits on the floor, desperately trying to catch his breath. It’s a world in which the idea of love exists but not the thing itself. Desperation and fear are the underlying machinery of human existence. As Hemingway said, “all generations were lost by something and always had been and always would be…” The Mother and the Whore is about a very particular time and place, but it’s also about all times and places. It’s about today and tomorrow.

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