Active pessimism and the politics of the 1950s
in Louis Malle
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As Louis Malle was to himself admit, he once held complex cultural affinities with the radical right-wing, although these were in themselves subtle and ambiguous connections. This chapter discusses Ascenseur pour l'echafaud, Les Amants, and Le Feu follet in the light of this admission. It also offers an opportunity to analyse Malle's political journey from the cultural right-wing to the libertarian left, to explain how Le Souffle au coeur marked a radical break with the 1950s by speaking of that era through a comic mode. A brief résumé of the basic plots of Les Amants, Vie privée, or Le Feu follet confirm Malle's propensity for active pessimism. The conservative portrayal of women in his cinema remained relatively stable throughout the oeuvre. Malle's films of the 1950s converged with the world of the extreme right-wing literary tradition, often loosely defined as 'the Hussard' movement.

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