Moderato Cantabile (1960)

Young, wealthy, married Anna (Jeanne Moreau) overhears a murder while at her son’s piano lesson. When she joins the other rubberneckers at the scene of this crime of passion, she forms an intense extramarital attraction with one of the witnesses (Jean Paul Belmondo)because this is a French movie.

She meets him again at the bar that was the scene of the murder, and, drinking glass after glass of wine (she’s “thirsty”), demands of him what he knows of why the murder occurred. She seems to be just as fascinated with the idea of such intense feeling as its grim end, and doesn’t seem phased by the possibility that there could be a cause-effect relationship there. In part because she seems deadened and depressed in her marriage, if not in motherhood. “You want happiness for your children” she says to this comparative stranger, “As if that’s even possible.”

Over the course of the movie, he describes to her his scenario of how he thinks the doomed lovers met, fell in love, and how they came to an end. It becomes clear that after a time he’s actually describing the obsession he is forming of her, and though she is aware of this, it enthralls rather than repels her, so detached she is in her bourgeois marriage. Obviously, it doesn’t end well, but in a way even more miserable than she anticipated.

Moderato Cantabile was showing at BAM as part of their Peter Brooks series. It doesn’t seem to be on any streaming services, so I’d advise checking out your local library. Lady Picture Show recommends having wine and cigarettes on hand.

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