Anatomy of a Relationship (1976, Luc Moullet)

An embarrassingly confessional sex/relationship drama starring the writer/director Luc Moullet as himself and actress Christine Hebert as Luc’s girlfriend (who is actually cowriter/codirector Antonietta Pizzorno). Mostly long-take conversations, the camera not seeming quite sure of itself – extreme indie narrative-verite cinema. And I’m annoyed, but not annoyed enough to turn it off. I try to put it in historical perspective (this might have been somewhat boundary-breaking in ’76), and besides, after reading many positive notices of Moullet’s career, I can’t give up halfway through such a short film. I’m also distracted that the girl is wearing a UGA shirt. And the poster of Nathalie Granger (which Luc produced) on the wall of their bedroom isn’t just glimpsed – it’s practically a third main character.

Then, three-quarters of the way through, a woman’s voice says “action” at the top of a scene, and any sense of documentary truth is shattered – I start to notice the movie-qualities of it all. It was self-referential before, with Luc’s “character” being a struggling indie filmmaker, and a dialogue scene filmed confessionally into camera, but now that is cranked up. A twist ending is injected (she’s pregnant, he receives a contrived financial windfall), and the two are in bed talking about making a porn movie. She: “I’ve got a feeling we’re being filmed already. You’re doing it for the camera, not for me. Stop it, will you! Cut!” End title.

But the movie doesn’t do anything halfway, so now that it’s introduced the self-referential element, we get a final sequence with Luc, Christine and Antonietta sitting around a table outdoors discussing the film and its ending, and Luc and Christine discussing it “on set” in the apartment. Katy says the whole thing sounds unbearable from my description, and it does, but I was drawn in and ended up liking it.

She: “With you, love-making is always rape.”

He: “For thousands of years women accepted normal sex. And now bang! That’s all over, sex is some place else. And that’s when I had to be born. It’s unfair! I couldn’t enjoy those thousands of years when billions of men had normal sex. Life is laughing at me. I’m the First Victim.”

“Do we communicate about anything?”
“Yes, movies. Our relationship hides behind movies. We always have something to talk about.

J. Rosenbaum says the contrived financial windfall in the film was based on real events, that the film itself “was financed by a real bank computer going haywire and accidentally sending LM a check for seven million francs.” Incredible.

The Phoenix: “Anatomy of a Relationship is a logical sequel to Billy le Kid: another film that focuses on a male-female relationship and explores the closeness of love and violence.”

City Paper:

Moullet paradoxically comes off the better of the two, or at least the more willing to bear the ugliest parts of himself; even a joke sequence observing that sewer holes are perfectly sized to swallow up film canisters betrays a trace of vaginal horror. After an abrupt false ending, Pizzorno appears for a three-way postmortem in which she laments not playing herself, a self-reflexive U-turn that only underscores the movie’s mood of failure. Appropriately for a film so concerned with castration anxiety, both versions end with a woman saying, “Cut.”

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