A young couple played Phillipe Noiret and Sylvia Monfort arrive from Paris to mend their relationship. He’s a native of the Pointe Courte, the place where fishermen live and work in Sète, in the South of France, where the film is set. He´s arrived first and has gone to the train station for the past five days in the hope that she´ll arrived so he can show her where he´s from. She’s a Parisian and has come to break up with him after four years of marriage.
La Pointe Courte is his home and he hopes that by getting to know it she´ll come to understand him better. And the film is as much about the place and its people as it is about the couple. We see they’re fishermen, at odds with the authorities about fishing in a lagoon, getting around the rules and paying the price for it when they get caught. We get to see a whole way of life, eating, working, mending, the men’s jousts and the women’s work too. Varda has an eye for the details of hanging up the washing, mending the socks.
The place is beautiful but harsh too, the work is hard, the room families live in are mean and cramped; a child dies, one sees a dead cat buffeted by the waves, near the end a child pleads with its parents to not drown all the cats and at least let one live. Varda has an eye for that which is beautiful, striking, notable. and if it´s not there for her to capture she makes it so through the ways she composes the images in the frame. One can see this film as a silent film and still enjoy it. Alain Resnais did the editing and he overlaps dialogue with images, poetic ones, that powerfully evoke place and a way of life.
The central couple are filmed as if in a Bergman film (though this is before Bergman made these types of shots famous in films like Persona), their faces forming ninety degree angles, his looking at her, she looking at the horizon, then vice-verca; everything overly ‘arty’ as they endlessly discuss their relationship, each other, the differences between how they love their love and how they love the other, insisting that it’s not the same thing.
Their love story is counterpoised with that of a young couple whose relationship is first forbidden by the girl’s father and finally permitted to be, partly because of his skill at jousting, by the girl’s cantankerous father. Phillippe Noiret is very young and in some shots almost handsome as the young native of the town who’s escaped this life he loves and moved to Paris. A film that is beautiful to see and beautiful to hear, with light regional songs edited to the gentle rhythms of a way of life. There’s a pragmatic kindness in evoking the every day and making it significant, in the making of poetry out of poor people´s quotidian life. It´s a lovely film.