Shot in the summer of 1980, this film from longtime directorial partners Straub and Huillet investigates the changing relationship between people, the land, and society in France and Egypt.
For many years, filmmaker Michel Drach wanted to tell the story of his childhood during WWII and his family’s escape from the occupying Nazis. The film explores his bittersweet memories, inter-cutting between his quest to make the film and the past.
Angèle, the daughter of Clarius, a farmer in the mountain of Provence, lives with her parents and their valet Saturnin. One day, near the farm, she meets Louis, a good-looking young man from Marseilles who is taking a holiday there. Unaware that he is nothing but a gigolo she is seduced by Louis and follows him to the city. But Louis, who has made her pregnant, forces her to be a whore before rejecting her. A year later, Saturnin comes to Marseilles in search of Angèle and finds her in a sorry state. He persuades her to return to the farm….
In the suburbs of Paris, an old maid has just been murdered. Every body talks about that, except the misanthrope Mr Hire. The same evening, Alice, just getting out of jail, arrives and meets up with her lover Alfred again. They act as they do not know each other, for Alice went to jail to spare Alfred. But Mr Hire falls in love with Alice, and he suspects who the murderer is.
In Paris, a gold smuggler is at war with other local gangsters who want piece of the action. Then the mob shows up and makes things worse. Also, an undercover US Treasury Department agent is trying to infiltrate the smuggler’s business.
This tragic love story finds Jeanne in love with a young man who has suffered through a bad childhood. Although he holds a steady job, he is haunted by his past, quits his job and joins a group of hippies. Despite the urgings of the lovely Jeanne, the boy cannot overcome the severe emotional scars that eventually lead to his imminent demise. The young girl returns to her comfortable middle-class home when her intellectual interventions on her boyfriend have failed.
A middle-aged disabled man unknowingly begins a lonely hearts correspondence with his own unmarried sister, who takes care of him. As he writes more and more to her, he begins to fall in love, and she, knowing that it is her brother who is writing, discovers a new, tender side to him. But trouble looms when he asks to meet her in person.
Madame Rosa lives in a sixth-floor walkup in the Pigalle; she’s a retired prostitute, Jewish and an Auschwitz survivor, a foster mom to children of other prostitutes. Momo is the oldest and her favorite, an Algerian lad whom she raises as a Muslim. He asks about his parents; she answers evasively. As she ages and takes fewer children, Momo must do more for her; as money is tight, he tries to earn pennies on the street with a puppet. He’s a beautiful man-child, and Madame Rosa makes him promise never to sell himself or become a pimp.