The Lovers (Les Amants)

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 10

80%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,100
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Movie Info

The Lovers (Les Amants) furthered the reputations of both director Louis Malle and star Jeanne Moreau -- and also pushed the boundaries of American censorship (1959 vintage) to the breaking point. Moreau plays a humdrum housewife whose life brightens considerably when she meets a handsome young archeologist (Jean-Marc Bory). The two enjoy an exquisite evening in the boudoir, and when comes the dawn, Moreau has gained a whole new outlook on things. She abandons her family in favor of Bory, even though neither has the slightest notion of what the future will hold. The Lovers gained notoriety upon its first release as the Movie With the Nude Scene: though a model of decorum by today's standards (the most suggestive moment is a shot of Moreau's hand falling limply on the bedsheets), the scene provided fodder for outraged guardians of public morals for several years. One hapless Cleveland theatre owner was arrested on an obscenity charge, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Venice Film festival took a more liberal stance on the matter, awarding The Lovers a special jury prize. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Jeanne Moreau
as Jeanne Tournier
Alain Cuny
as Henri Tournier
Jean-Marc bory
as Bernard Dubois-Lambert
Judith Magre
as Maggy Thiebaut-Leroy
Gaston Modot
as Coudray
Patricia Garcin
as Catherine fille de Jeanne (uncredited)
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Critic Reviews for The Lovers (Les Amants)

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (9) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for The Lovers (Les Amants)

  • May 28, 2017
    I'll start by saying this is a gorgeous film, with many beautiful scenes and fantastic 'New Wave' direction from Louis Malle. Jeanne Moreau plays a married woman with a disinterested husband (Alain Cuny), and, bored after 8 years of marriage, pursues an affair with a polo player (José Luis de Vilallonga). She does it under the guise of visiting her friend (Judith Magre) in Paris. This get a little ticklish when her husband starts to tire of the charade, and demands that she invite the two of them to dinner at their mansion in Dijon. The romantic tension in the film is palpable, and it's chic and stylish in its exploration of the age old theme of human relationships. There is an additional character who comes on the scene of Moreau's car breakdown (Jean-Marc Bory) who provides the film a voice for criticism about French society and the bourgeois. There is an extraordinary change of pace in what happens that night, but I won't spoil it, and it's best to not know what's coming when seeing this film for the first time. I'll just say that it enters a bit of a dreamlike and surreal haze, but as anyone who has ever been passionately in love will attest, that haze is quite realistic. In one highly charged scene, Moreau's lover goes down on her, which is bit shocking for 1958, a time when Hollywood by contrast was mired in the Hays Code and had married couples sleeping in separate beds. And yet it's tastefully and beautifully done, which is perhaps that's why Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart so famously said of this film that it was not pornography, because "I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." Indeed. There is a lot to love here. Moreau is wonderful, so beautiful and conveying so much emotion with her eyes. The acting is strong throughout, and the film still feels like a 'fresh voice' almost 60 years later. It's very romantic and yet honest at the same time, which is not easy. Great film.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 26, 2014
    From IMDB's Trivia Section: <i>"After screening this film, Nico Jacobellis, manager of the Heights Art Theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was charged with and convicted of possessing and exhibiting an obscene film. He appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court, which overturned the convictions, ruling that the film was not obscene. In a concurring opinion, Justice Potter Stewart made his famous pronouncement concerning what was pornography: "I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964) (Stewart, J., concurring)."</i> When I saw Godard's <i>A Married Woman</i> (1964), I thought it was the first film to portray the intimacy of an affair from such a passionate and human point of view, like a humble love letter to the irrationalities of the soul and the pleasures of the flesh. Naturally, I was wrong. The controversy that <i>Les Amants</i> achieved in such a conservative decade like the 50s (that is not a criticism) was just a secondary consequence. I always find it interesting to talk about the perceptions of on-screen sexuality considering the decade as a dependent variable, taking the films as independent variables, because they are simply done in the way they are, assuming complete independence from the censors (I take this assumption because of the intentions of the scandalous and equally revolutionary New Wave movements all around the world, especially France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Japan). Our perception of what constitutes pornography or obscenity is entirely dependent on our moral formation, which is dictated by society since your birth. Our life and human interactions are an endlessly, nonstop, complex amalgamation of teachings, stimula, free will, impositions and own judgment. What is taken today as maybe daring or bold, even tame, was considered obscene 50 years ago: that's what I find fascinating. That's the topic that opens a debate that I would like to call: "Society's permissive nature is causing its own destruction VS. Society is progressively more open-minded to alternate means of expression". Maybe we're in the middle but always want to take one extreme side: "I am either black or white". So, between the two things that I mentioned in the VS. showdown, which one would better explain our increasing tolerance to the portrayal of violence, sex and profanity in mainstream releases? So what constitutes obscenity or pornography? Is it the graphic content or is it the entire connotation? Was it made to arouse or is there a full story behind that is not seeking opportunities to portray sex at every corner? Or is it both? That takes me to the flawless, thought-provoking, extraordinary, iconoclast erotic masterpiece <i>In the Realm of the Senses</i> (1976). I remember this guy saying: "Stop with this pornography vs. art debate! It is obviously both!" I loved how this person was convinced of his own perception being the truth and nothing but the truth, as if taking a middle stance was so easy. Of course, I entirely disagreed. The graphic content was there, but the film's aims were entirely different: to explore the human condition through a <b>true-story</b> examination of physical extremes attached to a human man-woman relationship with a meaningful political background to subliminally suggest the impositions of human behavior. Ôshima was a genius. Cinema is an art form, and therefore, all of its stories are too regardless of how they are portrayed, from heartfelt dramas to exploitation of any kind. Malle is no provocateur - which still would make him an artist in the full definition of the word. However, he believes in the power of imagery. A correctly placed image can communicate too much. If you employ the basic aspects of storytelling as effective companions, then you have a winner. Cinematography here couldnt be better: in fact, it is one of the best in the history of cinema, I dare to say. The camera is a master of the characters' fate, including their future uncertainty. That's precisely the film's most brilliant twist: Jeanne is a woman who ends up with no regrets, but yet with a disturbing self-discovery of her persona, completely afraid about the future, but eager to know what the future has prepared for both, even if it is disaster. <i>Les Amants</i> is as honest as the straightforwardness of the title. There is no hidden message or implied allegory. It is a story about lovers, about how everything began, and the frustrating events preceding such a steamy, torrid affair. I was in love with the imagery even if I never sympathized with what I was seeing from a moral point of view. I believe in faithfulness being a component of true love, and I believe in the internal and external stability that faithfulness brings along. God bless the life of Jeanne Moreau, an extraordinary actress who had the guts to do what nobody would have done in commercial cinema. 96/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 28, 2014
    Louis Malle's first feature is more conservative than the typical French New Wave classic, but it's an impressive, polished debut. The glaring problem is that the first half is far more interesting than the second. We're introduced to Jeanne (Jeanne Moreau, back when she could still pass for "girlish"), a bored, neglected wife married to a wealthy newspaper publisher. She escapes her joyless life with steady trips to Paris, where she sees her socialite friend Maggy and a polo-playing paramour. The subtle tensions between these characters are engrossing, but the film sinks once Jeanne meets another man and the story turns into a gooey, dreamy-eyed romance based on no obvious chemistry or motive. "The Lovers" was quite controversial in its day, due to a late sex scene where Moreau's expression of ecstasy suggests some intimate stimulation below. Oh, and there are a few flashes of nipple too. But it's all very tame by contemporary standards.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 29, 2009
    Aesthetically speaking, this is a truly beautiful piece, and Louis Malle does wonders with that aspect alone. On top of being a photographic triumph, the movie makes a lot of bold decisions in terms of sexual depictions, especially in regards to adultery. It's a very sensual experience, and is quite influential in a lot of ways. All that being said, the shallowness of the protagonist is a bit wearisome and a lot of the character's actions seem to work in favor of brisk plot development rather than realistic human tendencies. The movie sums itself up too quickly for the amount of material crammed in, and it does a lot of damage to how well transitions play out. Worth a look for its achievements.
    Mike T Super Reviewer

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