In Maurice Pialat’s fiercely impassioned, impulsively modernist melodrama, Jean (Jean Yanne), a fortyish filmmaker who’s struggling to make a feature, is married to the smoothly bourgeois Françoise (Macha Méril) but, for six years, has been brazenly carrying on an affair with the much younger Catherine (Marlène Jobert), an aspiring actress. Toward Françoise, Jean is merely chilly; toward Catherine, with whom his relationship is vitally carnal, he’s both verbally and physically abusive. Unable to stand his outbursts and unwilling to live in fear, Catherine leaves him (but still hopes to sleep with him every now and then). Pialat captures the push-and-pull of their impossible relationship with images of a frank pugnacity and crashingly abrupt editing. The doomed couple’s story is punctuated by visits to Catherine’s parents and grandmother and to Jean’s father, all in the loamy tranquility of provincial France.