The Mother and the Whore

The idea that there is one Woman, and she is mother, saint, and whore, is a subtext in much of cinema. In Jean Eustache's masterpiece, it is text. Set in Paris, this is the mammoth account of three not-so-young castaways from the sixties and the sexual revolution. Léaud is at the center of the maelstrom for nearly the entire three and a half hours as a narcissistic, perpetually unattached cafe denizen who waffles between two women-the girlfriend with whom he lives (Bernadette Lafont), and a promiscuous nurse he brings home (Françoise Lebrun). He dangles between two conceptions of Woman, the mother and the whore, but if this is his particular cross, Eustache hardly deifies him. Rather, the film makes an important statement on sexism even while it implicates itself in all the questions and condemnations that this evokes. This is a film about language, and about sex as a language. The talk is raw, the film frequently funny, always sad, sometimes enchanting, thoroughly disenchanted.

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