Murmur of the Heart

Malle's breakthrough film is also, not surprisingly, his most personal, and his most controversial. Coming-of-age tales mark rich territory for the cinema, but Malle's version-complete with a young boy lovingly laying out his mother's underwear and trying on her makeup-surpasses them all, especially when one of society's taboos is joyfully smashed for good measure. Capturing the free-spirited spontaneity of The 400 Blows and other seminal New Wave works, the film begins in 1954 Dijon, where our young hero Laurent raises money for the wounded of Indochina while simultaneously shoplifting Charlie Parker albums. His antiwar, pro-jazz policies start taking a backseat to a more pressing concern, however: his need to lose his virginity. Sent to a spa to recuperate from a heart murmur, Laurent finds the perfect opportunity. Banned for several years from French television, Murmur of the Heart is, as Pauline Kael wrote, “mellow and smooth…but with the kick of a mule-a funny kick, which sends you out doubled over grinning.”

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