Les Amants


by Tuna


Jeanne Moreau plays the over-indulged but ignored wife of a workaholic newspaper owner, They live in a remote chateau in the French countryside, but she travels to Paris frequently to visit her best friend, and to conduct an affair with a polo player. When her husband finally becomes suspicious, he insists on inviting both the friend and the polo player to their home for dinner. On the way home, her car dies, and she meets a handsome young archeologist. "Love can be born in one glance," Moreau purrs in narration, "and in that moment all shame and restraint died away." The young man takes her home, spends the night, seduces her, and leaves with her the next morning, as both her husband and her lover watch.

Nico Jacobellis, manager of a motion picture theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was charged with and convicted of possessing and exhibiting an obscene film when he screened this Louis Malle film, also known as The Lovers. What was all the legal fuss about? Jeanne Moreau subtly exposes her nipples in a dark sex scene. That was America in 1958.

The case rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and prompted a famous statement about obscenity from justice Potter Stewart:

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that."

What Potter's vague statement lacked in both legal analysis and applicability, it made up in readily comprehensible common sense, so "I know it when I see it" resonated sufficiently to become one of the most famous phrases in the entire history of the Supreme Court.

The film became a poster child for freedom of expression, so its artistic merit had to be defended in order to prompt the correct court decision, and the aesthetic world was quick to embrace it, perhaps unduly. I find it rather talky and predictable.

New restored high-definition digital transfer of the complete uncensored version

Selection of archival interviews with Louis Malle actors Jeanne Moreau and Jose Luis de Villalonga and writer Louise de Vilmorin

Gallery of promotional material from the U.S. theatrical release

New and improved English subtitle translation

A new essay by film historian Ginette Vincendeau


It won a special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

100 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)


7.3 IMDB summary (of 10)




  • Jeanne Moreau shows her nipples in a dark sex scene.

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Historical interest. Not much more.