Even though more than three years separated Maurice Pialat's Loulou (1980) from his acclaimed A Nos Amours (1983) there are plenty of similarities between these two films. Both of them feature young and emotionally unstable characters, both films focus on social life in contemporary France, and finally both Loulou and A Nos Amours were put together by the very productive at the time creative duo Arlette Langmann-Pialat (a real life couple as well). In a somewhat similar fashion both films also appear to be using sex as the foundation for their stories.
In Loulou Nelly (young Isabelle Huppert) falls for a young and unemployed man (Gerard Depardieu as Loulou) while severing her ties with the slightly older and financially secure Andre (Guy Marchand). As the initial sense of freedom begins to dwindle however and more and more often Nelly finds Loulou's edgy way of life rather risky she begins to juggle with the emotions of her two admirers. As a result violence would often determine who is going to spend the night with Nelly.
An extremely complicated tale about dysfunctional relationships Loulou is a film that many will find difficult to endure. The irrational behavior of the main protagonists, each of them appearing with plenty of emotional baggage, most certainly provides the story with what I can only describe as a sense of insecurity. Jealousy, love, hate, violence, everything in Loulou appears as a sub-product of the inability of the main protagonists to communicate their feelings in a rational manner.
Perhaps the strangest part of Loulou however is the fact that love appears as the driving force behind each of the main protagonists' unconventional deeds. Acting from the opposite sides of the social spectrum-a successful professional confronts a street-smart thug-Loulou and Andre find solace in the fact that what they do will eventually benefit the woman they love. Unfortunately Nelly lies to both of them throwing the trio into a costly vortex of emotions.
Despite of the fact that Nelly, Loulou, and Andre all look quite eccentric at times Loulou remains a film about real people faced with real issues. The awkward decisions they make clearly reveal that maturity which many equate to age can be just as confusing as puberty. And as far as I can tell Maurice Pialat must have sought to recreate precisely the moment of insecurity adults face while they struggle to sort out their emotions.
With an all-star cast featuring the best of the best France has to offer Loulou simply shines. Acting, directing, as well as editing (marvelous job by Sophie Coussein-Jean de Florette) are all of top-notch quality. Even the supporting cast in this film appears to have achieved perfectionism in a most impressive fashion. With this said Loulou most certainly proves the old maxima that in the hands of a gifted director even the most difficult of social themes can easily be transformed into powerful cinema with plenty of substance.
In 1980 Loulou was nominated for Palm d'Or during the Cannes Film Festival. A year later the film received was nominated for three Cesar Awards: Best Actress (Isabelle Huppert), Best Film, and Best Supporting Actor (Guy Marchand).
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the UK release of Loulou appears as an exact replica of the French print from the Maurice Pialat boxset released in France. The restored print looks fabulous: colors are strong and well-reproduced, contrast is very well handled, damage is non-existent. This progressive anamorphic print is indeed of exceptionally high-quality and it most certainly shows when blown out through a digital projector. PAL-encoded, Region 2.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original DD 2.0 French track and optional English (white) subtitles the audio treatment Loulou has received in on par with the video presentation: excellent! The audio is crisp and very clear and with dialog being very easy to follow. I did not detect any distracting hissing or annoying pop-ups that might interfere with your viewing experience.
The only extra on this DVD is a rather large interview with Isabelle Huppert where she discusses her involvement with Maurice Pialat, the history behind the project, as well as some generic recollections about the time during which Loulou was shot. In addition, the DVD also offers the original French theatrical trailer as well as a section of basic filmographies for Maurice Pialat, Isabelle Huppert, and Gerard Depardieu.
The difference between this R2 UK release by Artificial Eye and the R1 flopper by New Yorker Video is frankly…staggering! It is as if one is watching two completely different films. The newly restored print which Artificial Eye have borrowed from Gaumont transforms Loulou into a marvelous experience. If you are looking for an English friendly version of Pialat's film to compliment the recently released by Criterion A Nos Amours look no further, this is it! Highly Recommended.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.