(director/writer: Maurice Piliat; cinematographer: Nestor Almendros; editors: Bernard Dubois/Arlette Langmann; cast: Nathalie Baye(Nathalie), Hubert Deschamps (Roger le père, ‘Le Garçu’), Philippe Leotard (Philippe, le fils), Monique Melinand (Mother); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Micheline Pilat/André Génovès; Eureka /Pathfinder Pictures; 1974-France-in French with English subtitles)

A remarkably sensitive straightforward but complex and brutally honest naturalistic drama on dying.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A remarkably sensitive straightforward but complex and brutally honest naturalistic drama on dying. It’s based on the screenplay by French director Maurice Piliat(“We Won’t Grow Old Together”/”A Nos Amours”/Graduate First”). While shot in intensely long takes, it covers the family reactions to death of one of their own. Critics have noted that during the filming Pialat’s mother died, which may have influenced him.

A 50-year-old Parisian-born mother (Monique Melinand) has terminal cancer and is slowly dying in her rural home. Her anxious family gathers around her death bed and astonishingly reveal themselves as a greedy and selfish bunch. But, also astonishingly, they show a certain tenderness and a real love for her.

Hubby (Hubert Deschamps), a clothing factory owner in the provincial Auvergne, his hometown, is revealed as a philanderer. Their married son (Philippe Leotard), living in Paris, is like his dad unfaithful to his wife (Nathalie Baye). The son is very close to mom, while his wife is not. They visit the dying woman from their Paris home and all sorts of memories return.

Pialat, in an amazingly adept way, explores what keeps dysfunctional families together, what a huge connection sex has with both life and death, how the world views death, and the banality of life. To its credit, this superior film, so splendidly photographed by the great cinematographer Nestor Almendros, is not sentimental or moralistic. It’s one of the great domestic dramas that for some inexplicable reason flies under the radar of most viewers.