A Man and A Woman (1966)
Directed by Claude Lelouch
December 16-17 at Film Forum, part of its Jean-Louis Trintignant retrospective
Claude Lelouch saw a woman and a child on a beach and was inspired to write a film around them. The resulting Best Foreign Oscar notwithstanding, what he wrote (with Pierre Uytterhoeven) and directed is still, essentially, a woman and her kid on a beach, joined by a man and his kid on a beach. And on a boat. The kids go to school together in the town of Deauville, a few hours away from Paris, and they get on well. After meeting each other in a fairly prosaic way, the man, a race-car driver (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and the woman, a script supervisor (Anouk Aimée) get on well too, though each has a tragically dead spouse, and the woman’s husband is still very much on her mind.
Shot in alternating color and black-and-white (when the going got expensive), there’s nothing in what Pauline Kael called “the most efficacious make-out movie of the swinging 60s” to dislike: the kids are cute ciphers, but we’re willing to grant that. The parents, too, are very good-looking ciphers, played by actors who elsewhere do many more interesting things. (The movie’s screening in Film Forum’s Trintignant festival, alongside his more interesting things, like The Conformist.) It’s fun to watch attractive, pleasant people flirting. But neither shots of gamboling dogs nor the mildly amusing conversation Trintignant has with himself as he drives from Monte Carlo to Paris after receiving Aimée’s telegrammed declaration of love add up to much more than beautiful images detached from meaning, like a stranger by the sea.