Genre: Drama • Romance
Director: Louis Malle
Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Marc Bory, Judith Magre, Jose Luis de Vilallonga, Alain Cuny
Duration: 88 min.
Bored with her husband, bored with her polo-playing lover, will the middle-aged heroine go away with the young man who gave her a lift that day when her car broke down on the way back to her country estate from a weekend with her lover in Paris?
The Lovers is the second feature film by Louis Malle. Released only a few months after Elevator to the Gallows, it premiered at the 1958 Venice Film Festival where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize.
It is most notable for the moral outrage it caused upon it's release, especially in the USA where one case against a theatre manager charged with breaking obscenity laws went all the way to the Supreme Court. Before you get all excited, the scene in question, a lengthy love scene between Jeanne Moreau and Jean-Marc Bory towards the end of the film, is actually rather tame especially by today's standards.
Moreau in a star making role, plays Jeanne Tournier, a bored provincial housewife who spends half her time home in Dijon with her young daughter and her disinterested husband Henri (Alain Cuny), the other half socializing in Paris with her childhood friend Maggy (Judith Magre), and having an unfulfilling fling with polo player Raoul (Jose Luis de Vilallonga). On her way back from one of her trips to Paris, her car breaks down and she is given a ride home by young and handsome stranger Bernard (Jean-Marc Bory). You can guess how things end up from there.
It's a very well directed film, with an excellent lead performance, Jeanne Moreau has a certain undeniable magnetism that captivates you no matter how wrong you think her character's actions are. Once again the cinematography by Henri Decaë is stellar, while the images are not quite as stark as in Elevator to the Gallows, there is a poetic beauty to them, especially in the outdoor evening scenes where the light or lack of it is used perfectly to set the mood. Like most romance films you may think to yourself that the story and situation isn't very plausible, but Malle is ever aware of this, and delivers a bittersweet ending grounded in ugly reality.
— Bonjour Tristesse