In 1958 "Les Amants" caused a considerable scandal on its international release for its depiction of a married mother walking out on her family for a younger man. It was actually banned in several American states, and the Supreme Court had to rule in the film's favour on an obscenity charge. "It was successful for all the wrong reasons," Malle later said to one interviewer, although by today's standard it's far from being sexually explicit.
Adapted by Malle and his co-screenwriter Louise De Vilmorin from the 18th century short story by Dominique Vivant, "Les Amants" helped turn Jeanne Moreau into an iconic leading actress. Wilful and alluring, she plays Jeanne Tournier, the bored wife of a Dijon newspaper proprietor (Cuny), who takes every opportunity to slip off to Paris to visit her wealthy, socialite friends Maggy (Magre), and the polo-playing Raoul (Villalonga). Driving back to the provinces, her car breaks down and she if offered a lift back to her mansion by a young archaeologist Bernard (Jean-Marc Bory). Jeanne's husband insist that the stranger stays for dinner with the other guests Maggy and Raoul...
Whereas Malle's debut, "Lift to the Scaffold" was a noirish thriller, "Les Amants" is a much more classical, sensual piece of film-making. Shot in elegant long takes, with a Brahms soundtrack, its centrepiece is the almost wordless extended sequence in which Jeanne and Bernard fall in love during one magical night. "Love can be born in one glance," murmurs Moreau in voiceover, "and in that moment all shame and restraint died away."
In French with subtitles.