Review: ‘Le Souffle Au Cœur’

Film is quintessentially French in its look at the awakening outlooks and sex imbroglios of a 14-year-old boy who likes to pass himself off as 15. Louis Malle lavishes insight, perhaps personal reminiscences, and unflagging rightness in atmosphere, character and observation to make this a richly comic, touching and incisive portrait of a young man in the French provincial city of Dijon in 1954.

Film is quintessentially French in its look at the awakening outlooks and sex imbroglios of a 14-year-old boy who likes to pass himself off as 15. Louis Malle lavishes insight, perhaps personal reminiscences, and unflagging rightness in atmosphere, character and observation to make this a richly comic, touching and incisive portrait of a young man in the French provincial city of Dijon in 1954.

A young Italian mother (Lea Massari) with a vital, free spirit, a conventional gynecologist father (Daniel Gelin) with hide-bound outlooks, if flirting with more liberal outlooks, and two older brothers whose revolt is in horseplay and brash jokes surround the teenage hero, Laurent (Benoit Ferreux).

Suffering from a heart murmur, he is sent to a spa with his young mother who, he knows, has a young lover. This leads eventually to a sort of love bout with his mother which is to be a secret between them and never repeated.

Ferreux has the vulnerability, warmth and witty outlook that give his young protagonist a human and recognizable quality. His mother is excellently drawn by Massari, whose need for freedom will not allow her to give way to a demanding suitor. All others are excellent. In the background is the Indochina War and loss of the French colonies, and some youthful if unformed political revolt.

Le Souffle Au Cœur

France - Italy

Production

NEF/Marianne/Vides. Director Louis Malle; Producer Vincent Malle, Claude Nedjar; Screenplay Louis Malle; Camera Ricardo Aronovich; Editor Suzanne Baron

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Lea Massari Daniel Gelin Michel Lonsdale Benoit Ferreux Marc Wincourt Fabien Ferreux
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