15 November 2021

Luc Moullet's Un litre de lait (2006)

(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.))

Moullet waited until the death of his mother before making this film because of the autobiographical content. This is a rural, montainous area. Gilles is a teenager reading Ulysses at the kitchen table in the the presence of his younger sister Anne and his mother, who gives him money to fetch a litre of milk from the Roux family. Extremely reluctantly, Gilles (joined by Anne) begins his deliberately very slow walk: he is aware that his mother is having an affair with Roux's wife, and it is clear that Anne doesn't. The film is taken from the point of view of Gilles, and there are imagined flash forwards to his encounter with the woman, he checks his pulse and his heartbeat, refuses the short cut that Anne proposes, pisses against a tree, anything to put off the moment. Finally, when he reaches the farm it's a young worker who serves him, thus avoiding the embarrassing meeeting. Unfortunately he falls down on the return and spills the milk. Anne gives him the money for the second trip. I couldn't help thinking that at the time Ulysses was (stupidly) thought a very sexy book, and the relationship between milk and sperm is evident: no doubt that would have added to 'Gilles's' discomfort.

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