My Little Loves

France 1975, 123 mins
Director: Jean Eustache

French artists seem peculiarly attracted to the mysteries of childhood and adolescence. In literature one thinks immediately of the luscious worlds conjured up by Proust and Alain-Fournier, in which characters are surrounded by a complex mesh of wistfully remembered sights, sounds and scents: in films, there is Zéro de conduite, Les Jeux interdits, Les Mistons, Mouchette. Now Jean Eustache contributes his considerable pennyworth in Mes petites amoureuses, a film which has long been in mental preparation. The mammoth, bracing La Maman et la putain reached the screen in advance purely because it could be made for much less money; following its success, the 2.5m francs needed to budget Amoureuses finally became a concrete reality.

At a superficial glance, the film could be taken for a sad, nostalgic idyll: the opening sound is of Charles Trenet singing ‘Douce France’, and Nestor Almendros’ photography makes the song title seem perfectly apt. Village streets and neighbouring fields are dappled with sun and shadow; no rain cloud darkens the skies. The soundtrack is as full of open air as the images: crickets chirp, wind whistles through the trees. The story-line equally suggests a recognisable mood and pattern, with its young hero stumbling towards adulthood and sexual experience. Thirteen-year-old Daniel (Martin Loeb) moves from a happy village childhood (living with his grandmother) to a small town adolescence (living with his mother and her silent Spanish lover). His experiences with girls become bolder: from practical jokes (like firing a toy gun at their heads) he moves on to fondle them, kiss them, and eventually he lies down with a dark beauty in the long grass. At the end he returns to the country for a holiday; the girl he used to eye pushes his hands away from her breasts, and he joins his other friends romping innocently in the fields, feeling much older and wiser.

Under its beguilingly familiar surface, however, Mes petites amoureuses remains as stern and uncompromising as its predecessor. France, in fact, is anything but douce, and Eustache dwells on the boredom rather than the excitement of adolescence, the desperate wanderings from diversion to diversion. And the diversions happen mechanically, almost without emotion: suddenly, and inexplicably, Daniel punches a schoolmate in the stomach and receives a blank look in return. When he enacts a circus trick before his pals (lying down, like the strong man, on broken glass), his audience only manage to look faintly bewildered. Once Daniel leaves for the town, life becomes even more desultory and the boy’s face assumes the set features of boredom. Deprived of schooling through insufficient funds, he idles away the hours ‘helping out’ in a cycle repair shop; outside work, he finds his pleasures visiting the cinemas (the town is blessed with four of them), strolling hopefully down an avenue traditionally set aside for pick-ups, lounging outside a café with fellow layabouts, swapping cigarette packets and stories of sexual exploits. The exploits themselves are passionless, interrupted affairs; for full-blooded romance we have to turn to the films Daniel sees, such as Albert Lewin’s Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, where Ava Gardner disports herself in a series of dizzily bizarre images.

Eustache’s directorial style emphasises the bleak daily round of his hero. The narrative proceeds through a succession of short scenes separated by quick black fades, pin-pointing confrontations and gestures with Bressonian force (though the style also attractively points up the humour inherent in much of the material – as with Daniel’s circus trick). The elliptical approach serves a further purpose by focusing on the random comings and goings of the community; people unhurriedly walk by, meet and pass on – a kaleidoscope which conveys the atmosphere of Daniel’s environment without any recourse to heavy local colouring. This slow-motion choreography of characters works most remarkably in the climactic scenes, when Daniel and a friend leave their comrades to pursue two village girls along a country road, only to be pursued in turn by the friends they left behind. With the minimum of dialogue, a battle of rival courtships ensues, riveting in its truthfulness and lack of rhetoric. Yet Eustache doesn’t always maintain such a firm grip on events, his obvious identification with Daniel leading him to harp on the boy’s listless manner a little too heavily at times, with the result that the audience sometimes experiences a twinge of listlessness itself. But on balance Mes petites amoureuses offers a distinctly cool, delicately nuanced study of a human being undergoing that strange process called ‘growing up’.
Geoff Brown, Sight and Sound, Summer 1976

Director: Jean Eustache
Production Company: Elite Films
Producer: Pierre Cottrell
Unit Manager: Armand Barbault
Location Manager: Louis Seuret
Production Administrator: Cloë Eschalier
Production Assistants: Serge Dubor, Jacky Moyal, Pierre Roitfeld
Production Secretary: Rebecca Taylor
Assistant Directors: Luc Béraud, Bertrand van Effenterre, Alain Centonze, Denys Granier-Deferre
Trainee Assistant Director: Boris Eustache
Script Supervisor: Irina Lhomme
Screenplay: Jean Eustache
Director of Photography: Nestor Almendros
Assistant Cameras: Jean-Claude Rivière, Dominique Le Rigoleur
Grips: Johannes Brunet
Gaffer: Jean-Claude Gasche
Stills Photography: Pierre Zucca, Bernard Prim
Editors: Françoise Belleville, Alberto Yacelini, Vincent Cottrell
Costumes: Renée Renard
Titles: Lax
Sound Recording: Bernard Aubouy, Bernard Ortion
Boom Man: Jean-Louis Ughetto
Sound Mixers: Bernard Aubouy, Nara Kollery

Martin Loeb (Daniel)
Ingrid Caven (mother)
Jacqueline Dufranne (grandmother)
Dionys Mascolo (José Ramos)
Henri Martinez (Henri)
Pierre Edelman (Louis)
Marie-Paule Fernandez (Françoise)
Maurice Pialat (Henri’s friend)
Roger Rezzi
Anne Stroka
Louis Caut
Alain Dumais
Ernest Simo
Sandra Sabine
Fabienne Dorey
Christian Lucet
Hilaire Arasa
Michel Almadouar
Caroline Loeb
Marie-Hélène Fassier
Philippe Gyiuriu
Aissa Ihamouine
Jean-Louis Damani
Patrick Eustache
Jean-Noël Picq
Jean-Claude Gasche
Felicia Ferguson
Jean-Jacques Bihan
Ghislaine Lakomy
Brigitte Pangaud
Michele Deboutet
Claire Treille
Jacques Romain
Vincent Testanière
Roger Rizzi
Cirque Muller
Syndra Kahn

France 1975
123 mins
Digital 4K (restoration)

The Virgin of Pessac (La Rosière de Pessac) + The Virgin of Pessac 79 (La Rosière de Pessac 79)
Sun 3 Sep 14:45; Tue 12 Sep 20:20
The Pig (Le Cochon) + Job Offer (Offre d’emploi) + Alix’s Pictures (Les Photos d’Alix)
Sun 3 Sep 18:30; Wed 20 Sep 20:50
The Lost Sorrows of Jean Eustache (La Peine perdue de Jean Eustache) + panel discussion
Tue 5 Sep 18:15
Robinson’s Place (Du côté de Robinson) + Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes (Le Père Noël a les yeux bleus)
Tue 5 Sep 20:40; Thu 14 Sep 18:00
Numéro zéro
Fri 8 Sep 17:55; Sat 23 Sep 11:30
The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la putain)
Sun 10 Sep 14:15; Sat 23 Sep 14:10
My Little Loves (Mes petites amoureuses)
Mon 11 Sep 18:05; Mon 25 Sep 20:30
A Dirty Story (Une Sale histoire) + Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Delights (Le jardin des délices de Jérôme Bosch)
Fri 15 Sep 18:20; Wed 27 Sep 20:40

With thanks to
Presented in partnership with Janus Films

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