Eustache, Jean: French Director (1938-1941)–The Mother and the Whore

Jean Eustache (French: November 30, 1938–November 5, 1981) was a French filmmaker. During his short career, he completed some short films, in addition to two highly regarded features, The first, The Mother and the Whore, is considered a key work of post-Nouvelle Vague French cinema.

Jim Jarmusch dedicated his 2005 film Broken Flowers to Eustache.

Eustache was born in Pessac, Gironde, France into working class family.

He became a member of the Cahiers du cinéma coterie in the late fifties, though it is known that he was largely self-educated and worked in the railroad service prior to becoming filmmaker.

The mystery surrounding his youth was intentional. Sources state that “during his lifetime Eustache published little information about his early years, indicating that he felt no nostalgia for an unhappy childhood.”

Though not member of the Nouvelle Vague, Eustache maintained ties to it, appearing as actor in Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End and editing Luc Moullet’s Une aventure de Billy le Kid, which starred Jean-Pierre Léaud (the lead in Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore).

Suicide

After becoming filmmaker, Eustache maintained close ties to  friends and relatives in Pessac. In 1981, he was partially immobilized in an auto accident. He killed himself by gunshot in his Paris apartment, a few weeks before his 43rd birthday.

Eustache had a son, Boris Eustache (b. 1960), who worked on his father’s second feature and appears actor in Eustache’s short film Les Photos d’Alix.

Eustache said: “The films I made are as autobiographical as fiction can be”.

Because of reluctance to discuss his personal life, it is assumed that his body of work was largely autobiographical. Besides  fictional shorts and features, Eustache made documentaries, many of them personal, including several shot in his hometown of Pessac and feature-length interview with his grandmother.

Eustache directed two narrative features.

The Mother and the Whore (La maman et la putain) is a 217-minute rumination on love, relationships, men and women. The film’s central three-way romance plot focuses on Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud), his girlfriend Marie (Bernadette Lafont) and the nurse he falls in love with, Veronika (Françoise Lebrun).

Eustache’s second feature, My Little Loves (Mes petites amoureuses, 1974), was intentionally different from his debut. Shot in color by cinematographer Nestor Almendros (The Mother and the Whore was in grainy black-and-white), the film also features significantly less dialogue and focuses on teenage characters in a rural setting. The film was entered into the 9th Moscow Film Fest.

Eustache appeared as an actor in The American Friend (1977).

Eustache admired the documentary qualities of early actuality films, and cited the Lumiere Brothers as influences. He made two films about a religious parade in Pessac, both titled La Rosière de Pessac, in 1968 and 1979, and remade his short Une sale histoire twice.

Filmography
Features

1966 Le Père Noël a les yeux bleus (47 minutes)
1968 La Rosière de Pessac (65 minutes)
1970 Le Cochon (65 minutes), directed with Jean-Michel Barjol
1971 Numéro zéro (110 minutes)
1973 La Maman et la putain (220 minutes)
1974 Mes petites amoureuses (120 minutes)
1977 Une sale histoire (50 minutes)
1979 La Rosière de Pessac (67 minutes)

Shorts

1961 La soirée (unfinished)
1963 Les Mauvaises Fréquentations (42 minutes), aka Du côté de Robinson & Bad Company
1969 Sur Le dernier des hommes de Murnau (26 min) (TV film)
1969 A propos de La petite marchande d’allumettes de Jean Renoir (26 minutes) (TV movie)
1980 Les Photos d’Alix (18 minutes)
1980 Le Jardin des délices de Jérôme Bosch (34 minutes)
1980 Offre d’emploi (18 minutes)