Screened as part of NZIFF 2006

Mouth Agape 1974

La gueule ouverte

Directed by Maurice Pialat

Maurice Pialat’s truthful, oddly funny and moving take on what could have been an uninviting theme: a middle-age woman dying of cancer and how this affects her husband and son. (1974)

France In French with English subtitles
83 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Néstor Almendros
Jean-Claude Rivière
Dominique Le Rigoleur


Arlette Langmann
Bernard Dubois
Monique Cavagnara


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Hubert Deschamps
Monique Mélinand
Philippe Léotard
Nathalie Baye


“Pialat’s third feature takes up a theme which, on the face of it, could not seem more uninviting: a middle-aged woman dying of cancer, and how this affects her husband and son. But what Pialat makes of this is so recognisable, embarrassing and moving – even, on occasion, funny – that he more than justifies his use of a forbidding subject. He has ideas about how emotions involving sex and death are intimately related – and about the clarity and lack of it that they shed on everything else, as son and father each go lusting after every woman in sight. He has ideas about cinema, too, and an expressive style that can encapsulate a lifetime of memories in a single shot. Without a trace of sentimentality or easy effect, this seemingly semi-autobiographical work is as intense in its way as The Mother and the Whore, and unforgettable.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Time Out

“A total masterpiece… devastating in its emotional precision.” — David Thompson, Film Comment

Pialat’s tale is set in his home region of Auvergne and is based on his mother’s illness.