LA TRUITE (Joseph Losey, 1982)

Based on the novel by Roger Vailland that Losey had wanted to film for twenty years, Joseph Losey’s dispassionate, disquieting The Trout is the rare piece of work that somehow manages to be both raw and elegant without elegance compromising its rawness or rawness compromising its elegance. This, his penultimate film, is often considered among Losey’s lamest. In truth, it is exceptionally interesting, showing various instances of convoluted sexuality and the complicated entanglement of its characters’ relationships. It is also well acted by everyone, including its star, Isabelle Huppert, but also Jeanne Moreau, Daniel Olbrychski, Jacques Spiesser, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Alexis Smith, Lisette Malidor and, perhaps best of all, Jean-Paul Roussillon.
     The great variety of shots that he has devised, in terms of camera distance and placement, but also regarding mise-en-scène, for instance, in terms of animal imagery, reveals Losey in this instance as a visual ironist; whatever the diversity, the sum is a claustrophobic sense of entrapment. The repeated closeup of fish in an aquarium tank reflects on the lot of the human characters, who are glassed in by their compulsive behaviors and attitudes. (It is remarkable with what finesse Losey stops short of conveying here a noirish fatalism.) Many reviewers shorthand the protagonist, Frédérique, as a woman who manipulates men; but Losey does a commendable job of explaining this habit of hers, beginning with her father’s trout farm, where we see her at miserable work. When she tosses out the window and into the current her father’s friend’s trophy fish, we keenly feel the artificial existence she is striking out against and the liberation she desires. Her loyalty to her gay husband is a complex matter—and a frightening one insofar as we worry whether it will be enough to keep the boy alive.

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