172 - The Mother and the Whore (1973)
This is an insanely sexual film - certainly the most erotic I've seen in the top 200. Yet, there's almost no nudity.
Alexandre is a young beautiful Parisian guy who loves women. Veronika is a young beautiful Parisian woman who loves sleeping with men. Marie is a women in her thirties who is involved with Alexandre. All three are intelligent, love to talk, smoke and meditate on sex, relationships and life. They are a fascinating triangle. We are about to spend three and a half hours, yes 217 minutes in their company. I approached this film like climbing a mountain. Trepidation combined with excitement, wondering if I'd make it through.
I am trying to think of a film with more dialog. These characters literally spend 217 minutes in bed and in cafes talking about relationships and sex. Those hoping for titillation will be disappointed. Those looking for a great movie are in for a treat. I went to University in 1977 and we sat around and talked about stuff that seemed important, world changing even. I have not seen a film that so captures the spirit of a man trying to impress women for one reason.
For most people this film will sit in the "difficult" category. However, if you loved Jeanne Dielman you'll find great pleasures in here. There are three great performances, of which two are from women who had never previously acted. It is as real, in its depiction of sex and people, as I have seen. Note how the film shifts in emphasis. During the first hour we listen to Alexandre as he moves between the women. As the film progresses it shifts towards Veronique and culminates in an 8 minute long monologue about fucking. This will offend some and be too much even today. Certainly no American studio or actress would film this sequence.
The length of the film was a major obstacle for me. The running time is one of it's great strengths, because it enables the director and screen writer to create the time to develop real people that I feel I know. The way they behave and talk is entirely natural. Most people I know don't speak in sound bites and most meetings don't occur in two minutes.
The film evokes deep thoughts. It made me wonder how as men we want women who are great mothers and great lovers. Vance Packard the famous marketing psychologist in the 1950's argued, in his seminal marketing book, "The Hidden Persuaders", that American men went to car showrooms to buy a lover and usually came away with a wife. The Detroit big three knew this and marketed whores but sold mothers. There is truth in this movie. Ultimately though, we guys often think we are in control of the sexual situation. The film presents a different point of view that may be more truthful than we might like to admit.
Mother and the Whore is not perfect as occasionally you will drift and tire, almost hypnotized by their conversation. But if you stay with it, there are rich rewards. Jean Eustache directed this film and it's his only movie in the top 1000. Tragically, he was dead before reaching 42.
Simply loved this movie, way more than I expected.