Films by the Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, who died in 2016 at 75, generally begin at a level of emotional intensity that more conventional movies take a long time to reach, if they get there at all. His 1975 “L’Important C’est d’Aimer” (whose English title for this restoration is “The Importance of Loving”), is no exception.
Romy Schneider, as Nadine, an actress doing film work she finds disreputable, struggles on set to find the emotion in a lurid scene while Servais, a hunky, not-too-bright photographer played by Fabio Testi, tries to score tabloid dollars by shooting stills of her in the scene.
He becomes obsessed with Nadine, and is soon intruding on her domestic life, which includes a gay, movie-mad husband (Jacques Dutronc, who in 1975 was better known as a pop star than an actor) and not much else. Servais borrows money from the mobster-pornographer he often works for to bankroll an eccentric theater production of “Richard III” that he wants Nadine to star in. The title role in the play belongs to one Karl-Heinz Zimmer, played by Klaus Kinski at full Kinski volume.
Shot in the least picturesque parts of Paris and peopled with morbid eccentrics and grotesques, this picture, Zulawski’s third feature and his first made in France, is in certain respects among his most restrained. (It may be a good introduction to his work.) The searing, sometimes confounding film also ideally showcases the heartbreaking talents of Schneider, who deservedly won her first César award for her work here. The restoration, by Rialto for this United States release, is lovely; Ricardo Aronovich’s cinematography is largely a study of tragic faces, and when his light hits the whites of Schneider’s eyes a certain way, the effect is breathtaking.
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