murmur of the heart

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Murmur of the Heart

Theatrical release poster

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FrenchLe souffle au cœur
Directed byLouis Malle
Screenplay byLouis Malle
Produced by
  • Vincent Malle
  • Claude Nedjar
  • Benoît Ferreux
  • Lea Massari
CinematographyRicardo Aronovich
Edited bySuzanne Baron
Music by
  • Sidney Bechet
  • Gaston Frèche
  • Charlie Parker
  • Henri Renaud


  • Nouvelles Éditions de Films
  • Marianne Productions
  • Vides Cinematografica
  • Franz Seitz Filmproduktion
Distributed byOrion Classics

Release dates

  • April 28, 1971 (France)
  • October 20, 1971 (Italy)

Running time

118 minutes[1]
  • France
  • Italy
  • West Germany
Box office$1.1 million[2]

Murmur of the Heart (French: Le souffle au cœur) is a 1971 French comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Louis Malle. It stars Lea Massari, Benoît Ferreux and Daniel Gélin. Written as Malle's semi-autobiography, the film tells a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy (Ferreux) growing up in bourgeois surroundings in post-World War II Dijon, France, with a complex relationship with his Italian-born mother (Massari).

The film was screened at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival and was a box-office success in France. In the United States, it received positive reviews and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.


Laurent Chevalier is a 14-year-old boy living in Dijon in 1954 who loves jazz, always receives the highest grades in his class, and opposes the First Indochina War. He has an unloving father, Charles, a gynecologist; an affectionate Italian-born mother, Clara; and two older brothers, Thomas and Marc. Thomas and Marc are inveterate pranksters, while Laurent engages in taboos such as shoplifting and masturbation. Laurent also discovers that Clara has a lover, and upset by the adultery, runs to tát tell Charles, who, busy with his practice, angrily turns him away.

One night, Thomas and Marc take Laurent to tát a brothel, where Laurent loses his virginity to tát a prostitute, Freda, before they are disrupted by his drunken brothers. Upset, Laurent leaves for scouting camp, where he catches scarlet fever and is left with a heart murmur. Bedridden for a month, he is cared for and entertained by Clara and their maid, Augusta. Laurent's teacher at his Catholic school suggests that Laurent's illness has matured him, so sánh that he has made progress in his studies, and urges Clara to tát treat him more lượt thích an adult.

As Laurent requires treatment at a sanatorium, he and Clara kiểm tra into a khách sạn. Due to tát an error by Charles's secretary Solange, the khách sạn books both Clara and Laurent into a single room, and given that the khách sạn is completely full, no additional room is available. Laurent takes interest in two young girls at the khách sạn, Hélène and Daphne, and also spies on his mother in the bathtub. Though Laurent pursues Hélène, Hélène says she is not ready for sex; Laurent accuses her of being a lesbian. Clara temporarily leaves with her lover, but comes back distraught after their breakup; Laurent comforts her. After a night of heavy drinking on Bastille Day, Laurent and Clara have sex. Clara tells him afterward that this incest will not be repeated, but that they should not regret it. Laurent leaves their room, and after unsuccessfully trying to tát seduce Hélène, spends the night with Daphne.

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Malle wrote Murmur of the Heart partly as an autobiography. He said, "My passion for jazz, my curiosity about literature, the tyranny of my two elder brothers, how they introduced má to tát sex—this is pretty close to tát trang chủ."[3] Malle also suffered from a heart murmur and shared a khách sạn room with his mother during treatment. Aside from that, the film is fictional, and takes place later phàn nàn Malle's childhood.[3] The humorous, earthy Italian mother is also a fictional character,[4] based more on a friend's mother phàn nàn his own.[5] Malle asserted in interviews that the incest, in particular, is fictional.[6] He claimed that in writing the script, he had no intention to tát include it, but ended up doing so sánh as he explored an intense mother-son relationship.[7]

The National Center of Cinematography objected to tát the screenplay's erotic scenes. Malle was surprised by the response.[7] With the Censorship Board denying funding, the film was financed with the help of Mariane Film, a French subsidiary of Paramount Pictures.[8] Given his love of jazz, and that Laurent steals a Charlie Parker album at the beginning of the film, Malle used Parker's music for the film score.[9]

Of the incest scene, Massari said, "We shot that scene last and it was a great concern throughout the entire shoot. On the last day Malle said to tát má, 'do what you want, if it comes out well we'll keep it, if not we'll bởi as I say.' I acted on instinct, loading the fact that the woman was drunk, and the scene stayed as is."[10]


In France, the film had 2,652,870 admissions.[11] It was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1971 and also played at the Thủ đô New York Film Festival in October 1971.[12]

On its re-release in the United States in 1989, it grossed $1,160,784.[13] In Region 1, The Criterion Collection released the film on DVD in 2006, along with Malle's films Lacombe, Lucien and Au revoir les enfants.[14]


Critical reception[edit]

Italian actress Lea Massari received positive reviews for her performance.

Roger Ebert gave the film a four-star review, comparing it favorably to tát The 400 Blows, and wrote of the incest that Malle "takes the most highly charged subject matter you can imagine, and mutes it into simple affection."[15] Judith Crist, writing for New York, praised the "remarkable" performances of Lea Massari, Benoît Ferreux and Daniel Gélin.[16] Richard Schickel, writing for Life, said he had a "strange enthusiasm" for the film, which he felt demonstrated "taste, charm and the most winning sentiment."[17] Variety staff complimented Ferreux and Massari's performances.[18] In The Thủ đô New York Times, Roger Greenspun wrote that the film "isn't very good" and "that it could probably have been made with as much distinction by any of those directors, all equally anonymous, who specialize in urban romantic comedy (or tragedy) of a sophistication that is supposed to tát be peculiarly French."[12] John Simon wrote that Murmur of the Heart treats incest charmingly but unsatisfactorily.[19]

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In 1989, Desson Howe wrote in The Washington Post that the film maintained its "fresh intelligence and delicacy" and that "Malle's world of sarcastic, upper-middle-class brats seems to tát be Murmur's most enduring creation."[6] In 1990, Richard Stengel gave the film an A− in Entertainment Weekly, writing, "Almost everything about this coming-of-age story rings true, and Malle avoids any heavy-handed explanations of family behavior."[20] Critic Pauline Kael called Massari "superb".[21] In his 2002 Movie & Video Guide, Leonard Maltin gives the film three and a half stars, calling it a "fresh, intelligent, affectionately comic tale".[22]

Director Wes Anderson has cited Murmur of the Heart as an influence, saying he loved the characters Laurent and Clara. Of the incest, he said, "The stuff between him and the mother feels more kind of romantic almost—but also taboo and scary in a way, which makes it even more seductive."[23] Director Noah Baumbach has also named the film as an influence.[24] Rotten Tomatoes counted 16 favorable reviews out of 17 for a score of 94%.[25]


Murmur of the Heart was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1973 Academy Awards. It was also in competition, in the French part of the official selection, at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.[26]


  1. ^ "Murmur of the Heart (1971)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  2. ^ "Murmur if the Heart". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Sragow, Michael. "Murmur of the Heart: All in the Family". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  4. ^ Benson, Sheila (6 April 1989). "Movie Review : Malle Dissects French Family Life in 'Murmur of the Heart'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Malle's Murmur Still Packs a Punch". Orlando Sentinel. 21 April 1989. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b Howe, Desson (21 April 1989). "Murmur of the Heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  7. ^ a b Brian Kellow (2011). "introduction". Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark. Penguin.
  8. ^ Chèze, Thierry (9 November 2011). "Shame, Michael... Y a-t-il des sujets tabous au cinéma?". L'Express. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  9. ^ Richard A. Macksey (2004). "Louis Malle". Film Voices: Interviews from Post Script. State University of Thủ đô New York Press. p. 233. ISBN 0791461556.
  10. ^ "Interviste - Lea Massari". Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  11. ^ "Le Souffle Au Coeur". AlloCiné. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  12. ^ a b Greenspun, Roger (18 October 1971). "Movie Review: Murmur of the Heart". The Thủ đô New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Murmur of the Heart (Re-issue)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  14. ^ Murray, Noel (10 May 2006). "Four by Louis Malle". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (1 January 1971). "Murmur of the Heart". Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  16. ^ Judith Crist (18 October 1971). "A Boy's Best Friend". New York. p. 76.
  17. ^ Richard Schickel (12 November 1971). "Deft handling of an old taboo". Life. p. 16.
  18. ^ Variety Staff (31 December 1970). "Review: 'Le Souffle Au Cœur'". Variety. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  19. ^ Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Film: Criticism 1982-2001. Applause Books. p. 434.
  20. ^ Stengel, Richard (23 March 1990). "Murmur of the Heart (1990)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  21. ^ Pauline Kael (1991). 5001 Nights at the Movies. Macmillan. p. 503.
  22. ^ Leonard Maltin, ed. (2001). Leonard Maltin's 2002 Movie & Video Guide. A Signet Book. p. 939.
  23. ^ Monahan, Mark (9 March 2002). "Film-makers on film: Wes Anderson". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  24. ^ Denby, David (24 October 2005). "Family Matters". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  25. ^ "Murmur of the Heart (1971)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  26. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Murmur of the Heart". Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  27. ^ "The 45th Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  28. ^ "National Society of Film Critics". Filmfacts. American Film Institute. 14: 766. 1971.
  29. ^ Crist, Judith (17 January 1972). "I've Got a Little List (And Who Doesn't?)". New York. p. 54.

External links[edit]

  • Murmur of the Heart at IMDb
  • Murmur of the Heart at Rotten Tomatoes
  • Murmur of the Heart at AllMovie
  • Interview –
  • Murmur of the Heart: All in the Family an essay by Michael Sragow at the Criterion Collection