11 April 2021

André Cayatte's Mourir d'aimer | To Die of Love (1971)


Mourir d'aimer is based on a true story involving Gabrielle Russier, a teacher born in Paris in 1937 who had a love affair with one of her pupils, Christian Rossi, in the heady revolutionary May 1968 and after. Russier killed herself in her flat in Marseille in 1969 as a result of the repercussions of the affair and a number of performers sang songs about it, notably Charles Aznavour's 'Mourir d'amour'. In fact the tragedy has never been forgotten by the French. When Macron was elected in 2017 the newspaper Libération carried an article titled 'La Revanche de Gabrielle' ('Gabrielle's Revenge'), alluding to the fact that Macron's wife, his teacher Brigitte, was twenty-four years older than him (and married) when she fell in love with the fifteen-year-old lycéen.

In this film Russier becomes Danièle Guénot (played by Anne Girardot) and Christian is Gérard Leguen (played by Bruno Pradal (who was a few years older than Christian and with a full beard)). The couple have the apparently full backing of the revolutionary students in the lycée, although the young guy's father is responsible for the imprisonment of Danièle and the incarceration of Gérard in a psychiatric hospital, although it's quite clear that there's nothing wrong with his son: he's in love, not 'bewitched' by Danièle who (contrary to Gérard's father's claim) is no prostitute.

There are obviously grey areas into which some relationships just don't fit legally, and this is clearly one of them. Here, Gérard is in full possession of his senses, as is Danièle. Unfortunately, in this film it's the father who's crazy, and whose ill conceived legal meddling will lead to catastrophie. There are a few wincingly melodramatic touches here, and a little ham acting, but this film remains a very powerful statement.

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