7 November 2021

Luc Moullet and Antonietta Pizzorno's Anatomie d'un rapport (1976)

(In September of this year, 2021, the Cinémathèque française showed a number of films by the almost forgotten Luc Moullet, who at the age of eighty-four is still very much alive. When the daily paper Libération interviewed him, living on the fifth floor of a block of flats, he said he's horrified of lifts, and measures the state of a visitor's health by counting the minutes between their initial intercom ring and the time they arrive at his door. In another article in the same paper, Moullet says "I'm not a very normal person. I always live a little at the side of reality". (My translation, and I shall continue to include this paragraph in any further posts on Mouillet as they are not only an introduction to his work, but also (surely) strong indications of an Asperger element.))

Anatomie d'un rapport suffers slightly because Luc Moullet's acting is sometimes a bit wooden and unconvincing, but that this 1976 film is ground-breaking is certain: sex and the sexual act may well have been coyly simulated in other films – although there's very little of it here – in the only way the censor could allow in those days (including many instances of full frontal nudity, and again there's little of that here), but how many times has the sex act been spoken about in such a detailed way, how many times has the male's former accepted sexual prowess been under such attack, and partly by a male director who actually plays the part of the hapless male? Moullet's partner Antonietta Pizzorno is behind the camera and Marie-Christine Questerbert (under the name of Christine Hébert) plays his screen partner. Neither of them has a name in the film.

This is post-1968, post-sexual revolution, and women (particularly supporters of MLF (Mouvement de libération des femmes)) obviously not only demand equality with males but they want to enjoy sex too. So what's the problem with her, she's been making the right sounds at the same time as him, so they must have had simultaneous orgasms? Oh no, she's been faking it, she hasn't come, and he (like most men, she says) are incapable giving women one. 1976 and men still can't get their heads round the clitoris? Not that there's any talk of oral sex though. OK, this isn't a sex lesson and the film can hardly show her showing him what her parts are, can't lead him to the feast: he only believes in a vaginal orgasm. So she just admits that she uses a substitute: she masturbates. The fact that she's ashamed of this could be an indication of how far the sexual revolution has got eight years after 1968, but then Moullet loves making people laugh, and it's interesting to learn that this film (just) pre-dates Woody Allen's Annie Hall with it's unforgettable split screen interviews with Alvy's and Annie's psychiatrists hearing different versions of their patients' reactions to having sex three times a week: respectively, 'Hardly ever' and 'Constantly'.

In the end, there's no resolution, although this in its way is a fascinating film.

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