Marthe Keller in “And Now, My Love”
A vaguely-plotted, two-and-half-hour black and white film, Claude Lelouch’s “And Now, My Love” clearly had an ardent fanbase in 1975, a year championed by many as a standout for cinema. Not only did the Los Angeles film critics single it out as the Best Foreign Language film of its year, the Academy itself surprisingly recognised it in the Original Screenplay category, alongside such powerhouses as “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Shampoo,” and “Amarcord.” Having gotten Anouk Aimee a Best Actress nomination in 1966 for “A Man and a Woman,” Lelouch may have been regarded as the Bryan Forbes or James L. Brooks of the period, inevitably leading to cries of ‘Oscar nomination!’ for the film’s principal performer and stunning beauty Marthe Keller.
The reality is that, in its sheer audacity as a century-spanning, philosophising cloudbuster of a film, “And Now, My Love” doesn’t showcase Keller in the way that potential Best Actress nominees often need to be, picking up and dropping actors in order to declare its ideas, coherent somewhere down the line but otherwise ethereal and restless. It’s a wonder that her performance marries so well with the artful concerns of Lelouch’s Godardian exploration of political and existential woe, her character Sarah (the third generation of a three-pronged role for Keller) fickle in matters of love and battle, cascading through emotional octaves with erratic, naturalistic impulse.
Amidst the historical commentary Keller focalises Sarah’s struggle to maintain a sense of challenge in her life, momentarily grounding the meta aspects in her playful, enigmatic flirtations and pouty ignorance. She manipulates the ambivalence of the character to contradictarily suggest that she needs attention from Lelouch and the audience, and he handily cuts away from conventional narration when she becomes unbearably idealistic. Keller’s is a curious performance, but one that thoroughly works for “And Now, My Love,” astoundingly correlative to the film’s social odyssey, and a wispy wonder of actressing at its freshest and boldest.