Louis Malle France, 1958
(Les Amants). Malle's The Lovers was the first truly successful film of the nouvelle vague. The beautifully nuanced story involves Jeanne (Jeanne Moreau), an aimless provincial wife, hitched to an insensitive publisher who spends his time putting his paper, not her, to bed. Jeanne encounters the free-thinking Bernard and is swept away by the possibility of a new future. This film's "threat" isn't so much in the transgressive act of adultery as it is in its sobering recognition that matrimony itself is an empty convention. Malle called The Lovers "a very moral picture. It shows a woman finding love in a desert of loneliness. It is a wonderful thing when it happens." But when it "happens" there is an occasion for physical love, shown here in shadowed suggestion more than explicit depiction. The censors saw only the explicit and banished the context. When the distributors took the Chicago censors to court, it was disclosed that no representative of the appeals process had looked at any part of the film apart from the notorious fifth reel-the "dirty" parts. In the end, however, The Lovers rose from the sheets victorious.
• Written by Malle, based on the novel Point de Lendemain by Dominique-Vivant. Photographed by Henri Dacae. With Jeanne Moreau, Alain Cuny, Jose-Luis de Villalonga, Jean-Marc Bory. (88 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From PFA Collection, permission New Yorker)