Alexandre (Leaud), is a slacker who spends his days sharing quirky chitchat with strangers, showing his attempts to come to terms with the women in his life; Gilberte (Isabelle Weingarten), his ex-girlfriend; Veronika (Lebrun), a hospital anaesthetist whom he picks up in 30 seconds; and Marie (Lafont), his long suffering live-in mistress.
Despite winning the Grand Jury Special Prize at Cannes in 1973, Jean Eustache's interior epic is a little known entity. A three-and-a-half hour, black-and-white, 20-year-old French flick may sound like the cinematic equivalent of Chinese water torture, but this mammoth meditation on love, jealousy, honesty, commitment and sex is riveting, if demanding, fare.
Captured in long takes and a purely functional filmic style, the action (or inaction) centres Although this traverses the usual French movie terrain, the wry humour, tender observation and insight merge together to make the result endlessly fascinating and involving. In this respect, the director is well served by his cast; Lafont and Lebrun do a neat job of delineating the two women but ultimately this is Leaud's film; his easy charm, homespun philosophy and quiet intensity are immensely watchable.
Once you've forgotten about the traditional movie clock and slid into Eustache's rhythms, the film makes a virtue of the bits other films leave on the cutting room floor, creating an intimacy and reality that shorter films only hint at.
Only towards the end does the running time weigh heavy, but by then you're hooked enough to care what happens.