"La Maman et la Putain" (1973), known in English as "The Mother and the Whore," is a seminal film in the French New Wave canon, directed by Jean Eustache. This black-and-white, French-language drama is noted for its explicit sexual content and extended runtime of over three and a half hours. The film centers on the character Alexandre, portrayed by Jean-Pierre Léaud, who is involved in a complex love triangle with his girlfriend Marie (Bernadette Lafont) and a casual lover named Veronika (Françoise Lebrun).
Critics regard this film as a gripping statement on late 1960s French society, showcasing Eustache's directorial prowess. The film is characterized by its vibrant energy, despite its imperfections, and Léaud's performance as Alexandre is particularly noted for being adorably annoying yet captivating. It has been described as an epic masterpiece, unparalleled in cinema for its passionate, irrational, and self-destructive portrayal of characters, surrounded by intellectual banalities and devoid of sentimentalism.
The narrative primarily unfolds through intimate two- and three-person conversations, making it a film more about character than action. Alexandre is an anxious, delicate, and boyishly charming character, full of self-indulgent ramblings. The women in his life, Marie and Veronika, have distinct personalities and roles in this triangular relationship. The film’s focus on character dynamics and dialogue has made it an influential work in cinema, despite its potentially challenging length and pace for some viewers.