1966 was important for various historical reasons, be it political, sporting or cultural. The first American bombs fell on Hanoi that year, while England won the soccer World Cup and the Beatles and the Beach Boys released their groundbreaking albums “Revolver” and “Pet Sounds.”
In the midst of all this history, a little known French director, Claude Lelouch and his film, “A Man And A Woman,” won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize and later the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The always debonair Jean-Louis Trintignant ( And God Created Woman, My Night At Maud’s, Z) and the absolutely gorgeous Anouk Aimee (La Dolce Vita, Justine, The Appointment) play the lead characters in this stylish film. Financial constraints might have forced Lelouch to shoot part of the movie in black and white, but somehow here it seems to work. The breathtakingly stunning imagery of the actors close-ups and the impressionistic look of the director’s brilliant camera work makes the feature a visual treat for the viewer.
The critics of the film have always complained about its emphasis on style over substance. The oversimplified love story where two single parents, who have both lost their spouses in violent circumstances are so easily brought together by their visits to their children’s boarding school, has not been so readily accepted. Perhaps, the timing of the film, released during the French New Wave film movement, might have brought unfair comparisons to other French directors of the era who had more complex stories to showcase.
The MTV style images might look more at home in a French music video, but the film still has a lot going for it. The omnipresent music by Francis Lai has been an international sensation ever since its release all those years ago. This grown up love story, if that is how you want to categorize it, deals with parenthood, career, past loves and loss in the background while the lead characters deal with their own anxieties in their burgeoning relationship.
Lelouch has to be given credit for trying to juggle all those complex issues of his lead characters in an easy to understand love story.
One thing is certain- he makes no excuses for his style of work and has a lot of fun doing it.
Foreign film buffs have never really understood or possibly forgiven that Lelouch’s breezy love story could have won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film over the likes of more substantive films like “The Battle Of Algiers”( arguably one of the finest political films ever made) by Gillo Pontecorvo or even over one of Milos Forman’s finest films, “Loves Of A Blonde.”
However, many will argue that for them, it brings back memories of their own love story.
A more innocent time when a love story was more about the journey than the destination.