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Erotic Abandon Kindles 'Loulou' of a Romance

November 17, 1994|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lance writer who regularly covers theater for the Times Orange County Edition. and

Much of the interest in "Loulou," Maurice Pialat's 1980 movie about hard-nosed romance, comes from watching French stars Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert at earlier, less commercial plateaus in their careers.

Pialat, a former painter known for the earnest realism of his films, tells the story of Nelly (Huppert) and Loulou (Depardieu), a pair of lovers who connect despite the disadvantage of having little in common besides a flash point of sexual attraction.

"Loulou" (screening Friday as the latest installment in UC Irvine's "Cinema Potpourri" series) shows what excited the French about Depardieu before he became better known to U.S. audiences in more mainstream pictures such as "Green Card." As Loulou (an ironic nickname for Louis), Depardieu is a street rowdy and thief with a huge heart and huger libido.

But he's not so much the lovable bear of "Green Card" as a rough symbol of low-class Parisian manhood in "Loulou." With his nervy insouciance, you get an impression of what provoked French critics to describe Depardieu as the most charismatic leading man since Jean Gabin.

And that brings us to Huppert, another favorite of French reviewers. She's the ice princess of European leading ladies, and her blankly emotional, somehow distant but also inviting style is ideal for Nelly, mired in a bourgeois life as the mistress of an advertising executive (Guy Marchand).

Everything seems routine but edgy until she meets the leather-jacketed, barely washed Loulou in a bar; then everything turns edgier but far from routine. They drop into an erotic abandon that echoes Bernardo Bertolucci's "Last Tango in Paris," although Pialat and cinematographers Pierre William Glenn and Jacques Loiseleux are less graphic in documenting Nelly and Loulou's burn-the-house-down passions.

The similarity is that they, like Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider's characters in "Tango," seek identity and truth, or at least a sweaty semblance of it, in their encounters.

Pialat's view is softer, though, as Loulou and Nelly, despite class differences and other more personal obstacles, fall genuinely in love. The director presents a very naturalistic romance that looks real, no matter how unlikely it may seem.

But that's not all Pialat is after. Ultimately, he sticks to form, meaning his usual themes centering on young men and women at odds with French society at large.

At one point, the self-absorbed and unambitious Loulou is asked what he wants to do and he replies, "Everything--and nothing," proving that our own ambivalent Gen Xers aren't the first to embrace what's-the-point? slackerism.

* What: Maurice Pialat's "Loulou."

* When: Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 and 9 p.m.

* Where: The UC Irvine Student Center Crystal Cove Auditorium.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road and head south to Campus Drive and take a left. Turn right on Bridge Road and take it into the campus.

* Wherewithal: $2 to $4.

* Where to call: (714) 824-5588.


Vertical Reality

(NR) Warren Miller's 45th adventure ski film highlights ski runs in British Columbia, Colorado, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the Himalayas. It screens today, Nov. 17, at 8 p.m. in Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. (See Around & About, Page 14.) Everyone who attends receives a free lift ticket to Snow Summit. $11. (714) 870-5618.

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