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Moderato cantabile

A lyrical and moody piece of cinema, Moderato cantabile is an excellent example of the French New Wave of the early 1960s. It tells of a bored housewife, Anne (Moreau), who’s trapped in a life of routine. One day, whilst accompanying her son to his piano lesson, Anne hears a woman’s scream from a nearby cafe, then sees her dead body. Obsessed with the murder, she frequents the cafe, becoming acquainted with a man (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who purports to give her the information for which she hungers and to whom she grows increasingly attracted. The pairing of Moreau and Belmondo is a masterstroke. Moreau’s tragic wistfulness plays perfectly off Belmondo’s sullen, contemplative persona. There is something deeply tragic about an attractive woman who places herself in the hands of a taciturn man that might be capable of murdering her. Theatre guru Peter Brook gives the film a striking visual look that perfectly captures the mood of boredom tinged with ambiguity. Almost every scene is a wide panorama, either filled with detail or disturbingly empty. Moreau plays her part with such conviction and solemnity that, in a scene where the camera fixes on her face for a full ten seconds, we almost glimpse her soul. Little surprise that she won the Best Actress award in Cannes.
France, 1960. English subtitles. Black and white. Anamorphic. 91mins.

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