The Fire Within

11th February 1972, Love is tender in mother’s arms ‘Kensington Post’ p30

Love is tender in mother’s arms

LUOIS MALLE, one of France’s foremost directors, made DEAREST LOVE (Le Souffle au Coeur) after the 1966 LE VOLEUR. It was the first film he scripted for himself.

A comedy about a boy who, at the age of 15, becomes aware of the pressures and pleasures of sex as he passes from childhood to adolescence, the movie shows how an Oedipus complex finally leads him into the arms of his adoring mother.

DEAREST LOVE (X), at the Gala Royal, Edgware Road. created controversy even before it was publicly shown: the French pre-production censorship board branded the script as objectionable because of its “accumulation of erotic and perverted scenes which are taken lightly—loss of virginity, the whorehouse, masturbation, measuring the length of the male organ, the homosexual Jesuit, and incest between a mother and son.”

The censors thought DEAREST LOVE a project which, in the absence of any real artistic justification. resulted in an unnecessarily pornographic film.

Nonetheless, while certain scenes may shock, Malle has handled them with insight and a sense of atmosphere and this portrait of a provincial boy in Dijon in 1954 is often touching and very funny.

I especially liked Laurent’s gauche attempts to seduce young girls during a holiday at a spa town, and the climactical scene in which Laurent and his mother make love during a Bastille Day celebration when she becomes very merry, is handled with great tenderness.

In the role of Laurent, young Benoit Farreux made his screen debut. Chosen from 300 boys because Louis Malle sensed in him “an honest outlook on the world,” he gives an excellent performance.

Daniel Gelin is ideal in the role of Laurent’s strict father. Lea Massari, as his mother, is superb. Mars Winocourt and Fabien Ferrex play the boy’s two elder brothers. (Fabien is Benoit’s brother in real life).

After making his controversial film CALCUTTA, on the miseries of India, Malle said he needed “a crude and overwhelming sense of rightness” before he made another film. This he found in the script of DEAREST LOVE.


He laid the foundations of the film in 1954 because this date saw the struggle for Dien Bien Phu, a precise post-war period when a young person begins to look at life lucidly for the first time, and to revolt against the things he has been led to believe.

At the Electric Cinema Club this week you can see the film which has been described as Malle’s greatest — LE FEU FOLLET, which he made in 1963. The 107-minute movie starring Maurice Ronet and Jeanne Moreau, recounts the last 48 hours in the life of Alain Leroy after he has been ejected from his final refuge, the clinic where he has been undergoing a cure for alcoholism. His past is gradually revealed from the remarks of his friends, and the utter emptiness of his present life becomes clear from his lack of vital contact with any of them.

The central character is outstandingly played by Maurice Ronet.