The Films of Louis Malle

A Critical Analysis


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About the Book

With films like Les Amants and Le Souffle au cœur, Atlantic City and Au Revoir les enfants, French writer-director Louis Malle compiled a remarkable 40-year career, creating thirty acclaimed features and documentaries. Despite this success, Malle’s work has not received the critical attention it is due—largely because for nearly thirty years, several of his films remained unavailable to the public.
This is the first book-length critical study of Malle’s entire oeuvre, covering The Silent World (1956) through Vanya on 42nd Street (1994). Here, Malle’s work is approached non-theoretically on a film-by-film basis; each motion picture is examined as an individualistic, self-referential exploration of its own subjects and themes, with form and style relative to content. The darker, more provocative side of Malle’s films is also explored, and the director’s need to challenge his audiences ethically is addressed. Film analyses are supplemented by interviews with those who have worked with Malle.
A bibliography of major American, French and British books and articles on Malle is included, as is a Malle filmography, including cast and crew information, running times, years of release, production company data and a list of awards and award nominations for each film.

About the Author(s)

A former film and television story editor and Boston University graduate, Nathan C. Southern now freelances as a writer. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Jacques Weissgerber lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Heather McBrier lives in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Nathan C. Southern with Jacques Weissgerber
Foreword by Jean-Claude Carrière
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 422
Bibliographic Info: photos, appendices, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [2006]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6440-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword: Louis Malle, the Elusive One by Jean-Claude Carrière      1

Preface      3

Introduction: Louis Malle—Mainstream Iconoclast      7

1. Le Monde du silence (The Silent World)—1956

Plunging Through the Fourth Wall      21

2. Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)—1957

The Illusions of a Romantic      32

3. Les Amants (The Lovers)—1958

Restoration of the Sacred      47

4. Zazie dans le métro (Zazie)—1960

The World as Carnival      60

5. Vie privée (A Very Private Affair)—1961

The Myth of Emptiness      71

6. Le Feu follet (The Fire Within)—1963

Falling into the Gray Void      79

7. Viva Maria—1965

Only a Paper Moon      90

8. Le Voleur (The Thief of Paris)—1967

Deflected Emotion and the Art of Memory      101

9. Calcutta and Phantom India (L’Inde fantôme)—1968-1969

The Universe Through a Looking Glass      112

10. Le Sou·e au coeur (Murmur of the Heart)—1971

East Meets West      133

11. Humain, trop humain and Place de la République—1972

(released 1974)

On the Road Again      143

12. Lacombe, Lucien—1974

The Politics of Detachment      149

13. Black Moon—1975

Timeless, Placeless, Senseless      160

14. Pretty Baby (La Petite)—1978

A Tainted World Through Innocent Eyes      172

15. Atlantic City—1980

Dreams and Visions of Self      185

16. My Dinner with André—1981

Notes on Generativity      201

17. Crackers—1984

More Than He Needed or Wanted      220

18. Alamo Bay—1985

The Weight of the Unfamiliar      233

19. God’s Country (Le Pays de dieu)—1985 / And the Pursuit of Happiness (La Poursuite du bonheur)—1986

The Well-Rooted and the Transient      247

20. Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children)—1987

Revisiting Old Haunts      257

21. Milou en mai (May Fools)—1990

Collective Mythmaking      273

22. Damage (Fatale)—1992

Double Standards      292

23. Vanya on 42nd Street—1994

The Process of Becoming      315

24. Vive le tour (Twist encore)—1962 / Bons Baisers de Bangkok (Love and Kisses from Bangkok)—1964 / “William Wilson” (From Histoires extraordinaires)—1969 Brief Encounters: Three Malle Shorts      329

Appendix A: Lost Horizons-Selected Unfinished Malle Projects, 1949–1994

by Stéphanie Grégoire      341

Appendix B: Filmography      349

Notes      357

Select Bibliography      383

Index      397