Friday, April 19, 2013

The Best Films I Have Never Seen Before: Love on the Run (1979)

Love on the Run (1979)
Directed by: François Truffaut.
Written by: François Truffaut & Marie-France Pisier & Jean Aurel & Suzanne Schiffman.
Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Antoine Doinel), Marie-France Pisier (Colette Tazzi), Claude Jade (Christine Doinel), Dani (Liliane), Dorothée (Sabine Barnerias), Daniel Mesguich (Xavier Barnerias), Julien Bertheau (Monsieur Lucien).

Through four features and one short over a 20 year span, Francois Truffaut tracked the progression of his alter ego, Antoine Doinel. Love on the Run came nine years after the fourth in the series – Bed and Board – and is easily the weakest of the entries. Truffaut himself said he was not satisfied with it, and as such, he was never going to make another Antoine Doinel film. Had he lived longer, perhaps he would have changed his mind. And yet, despite the fact that Love on the Run is the weakest of the series, that doesn’t mean it is a weak film. It is still expertly crafted, with star Jean-Pierre Leaud effortlessly filling out the lead role once again. Once again, Antoinne seems to have changed little with time – he is still a man running from one woman to the next, never quite sure of what he wants.

It is now 10 years after the end of Bed and Board, which saw Antoine and Christine (Claude Jade) get back together after a brief separation caused by his affair with a Japanese woman. Apparently, in the decade since, Antoine has had more affairs, and the two were in a constant state of quasi separation – together for a while, apart for a while over and over. They have finally decided to get a divorce, but it remains amicable. They are the first couple in France to get divorced by mutual consent, and Christine still loves Antoine, but can no longer be married to him – not even for the sake of their child Alphonse.

It hasn’t taken long for Antoine to move on. He is already in a relationship with Sabine (Dorothee), although he remains only half committed to it – proclaiming his love when he’s with her, but constantly dashing out the door. Then he runs into his old love Collette (Marie-France Pisier, reprising her role from the short Antoinne et Colette) – and the two start talking again, especially after Colette reads the way Antoine portrayed her in his “novel”.

Truffaut said the reason he was not happy with Love on the Run, is because of the flashback or memory sequences in the film, that he feels he did not integrate well enough into the rest of the movie. Throughout the film, there are numerous clips from the four previous installments of the series, which act as a kind of memory for the film, and shows the characters progression from where they were to where they are. I have to admit, Truffaut has a point. Not all of the memory sequences really work all that well – although Truffaut certainly does what he can with them, and they are necessary to the plot, as the film is, in part, about the different way everyone remembers what happened. The problem is, that the films show the objective truth, not really memory, so Truffaut has to pick and choose the scenes carefully, to show not the difference between what happened and memory, but on the different moments each chooses to emphasize in their own mind. It’s a tricky gambit, that only partially pays offs.

But I did quite like the present scenes in the movie, that shows Antoine’s refusal to grow up and have a real relationship, and yet how the women in his past cannot help but love him anyway. It’s somewhat telling that when he hits a rough patch with Sabine, that both Christine and Colette go to her apartment to try and smooth things over on his behalf - she isn’t home, but the two run into each other and talk of Antoine. This may be the best scene in the movie, and it underlines just how self involved Antoine is. After all, in Stolen Kisses (the third installment), Antoine ran into Colette on the street, with her husband and daughter, and now she seemingly appears single. But Antoine is too self involved to even ask what happened, whereas it is the first question Christine has. Christine is soft hearted and caring, whereas Antoine remains self involved.

Truffaut has said that while Antoine Doinel started off very autobiographical in The 400 Blows and Antoine et Colette, as the series progressed, Antoine grew further away from him. Perhaps that’s why, by the time we get to Love on the Run, Truffaut seems a little disconnected from the material. After all, by the time Truffaut got to be the age of Doinel in Love on the Run, he had made himself into a successful filmmaker. Whereas Doinel is still drifting. Perhaps that’s why Truffaut felt he could stop this series after Love on the Run – because any further adventures in love that Doinel may have had are all just going to be repeats of what has come before.

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