Mid-life unease is worn as light as a 1970s sports jacket in Claude Sautet’s expose of friendship and floundering between three men. Energetic entrepreneur, Vincent (Yves Montand), the uptight doctor, François (Michel Piccoli) and disillusioned writer, Paul (Serge Reggiani) all enjoy closeness that cinema normally only shows between women.
Their bond is as strong as their crises. Financial strife, infidelity and muddled marital love (and the aching inability to write) are discussed at tables, walks in the woods and on pavements. Wine flows, the endless cigarette dangles and conversation moves in circles and straight-lines. They fall-out, get grumpy and are complicit, all the time revealing their vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, the ‘others’ in the film’s title are much-loved characters who play a part in Vincent, Francois and Paul’s malaise. There’s Jacques (Umberto Orsini) a handsome shadow of a man with whom Francois’ wife falls in love and Jean (Gérard Depardieu) a prize boxer who needs to gather the confidence start fighting again. The mistresses, girlfriends and wives are a curious bunch. By contrast to the main trio, they are less talkative, but no less solid: dependable, stubborn (a radiant performance from Stéphane Audran as Vincent’ ex-wife) or gently persistent. They are women of their era: pursuing a quiet middle-class rebellion, resisting the path set by their 1950’s upbringing.
Montand’s Vincent is the kingpin performance, wearing a face weathered by money worries and mismanaged love. Montand ploughs his huge appetite for life into Vincent and is similar to the role he played in Sautet’s 1972 Cesar et Rosalie. Here, Vincent is also a clumsy self-made businessman (a wink from Sautet, perhaps, as Montand left the French communist party in 1968) who bounds about with lamb-like enthusiasm for life. Vincent wants control, but can’t achieve it because he wears his heart on his sleeve.
There are no great plot-turns here (never Sautet’s directive): instead we are treated to a moving account of the mechanics and tenderness of the male mind. Vincent, Francois and Paul’s responses are as fresh in the present day as they were at the initial 1974 release. Why? Where most cinematic-drama connects male roles (even fully-developed ones) to action that drive the story forward, Sautet chooses to pin Vincent Francois and Paul up against a wall and semi-freeze them with circumstance. All they can do is reach to their friendship and respond. Truth is revealed, and we are charmed.
Director: Claude Sautet (1974)