Considered as a new wave masterpiece, Peter Brook’s Moderato Cantabile (1960) was based on the 1958 eponym novel Moderato cantabile by the great Marguerite Duras.
Anne Desbaredes (Jeanne Moreau) is the bored wife of a steel industrialist in the half-forgotten village of Blaye in southwest France. Her son, Pierre, and his weekly piano lessons with his teacher are the only things that seem to make her life interesting until one day, while listening to Pierre practicing a sonatine, she hears a woman scream from the cafe below the teacher’s studio. Anne looks down upon the scene and witnesses a frightened man being taken away from a dead woman’s side. Curious about the passions that must have motivated the crime; she visits the cafe and encounters one of her husband’s employees, Chauvin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), whose inquisitive and reflective mood mirrors her own. During the next following days, they use the murder they witnessed as an excuse to meet but instead, they end up connecting while talking about their own lives.
Moderato Cantabile marks an important milestone in Jean-Paul Belmondo’s career as it is the first film in which he is not asked to portray a “bad boy”. Instead, he interprets a more complex and mature role, given to him by Jeanne Moreau who wished to share the screen with him. The film was in the official selection of the 1960 Cannes Film Festival and Jeanne Moreau won the award for Best Actress.
In French with English subtitles