Louise is in her forties and divorced with no family. She has moved to Annecy in the east of France, where she teaches art. One day, finding her two dogs poisoned by malicious neighbors, she turns to Luigi, a young Italian immigrant with no money and no job, whom she had offered financial help to in the past, to bury them.
Louise takes Luigi under her wing: she moves him in to her home, finds him work, and tries to improve him. They soon become lovers, and the lonely woman becomes deeply attached to the naive and childish young man, despite his changeable, amoral nature. Luigi soon loses his job, and Louise faces financial problems in order to continue supporting and indulging him.
Aware of the big age gap, Louise encourages him to go out and spend time with other youngsters. Yet when Luigi introduces him to Pauline, Louise spends the whole dinner humiliating him, to the point where they break up.
Their relationship starts up again, and continues until Luigi meets Poussy, a very wealthy young American woman who falls head over heels for him, wanting to get married and take him to the U.S.A. with her. Luigi asks Louise to pretend to be his mother, to help the whole enterprise succeed. Out of love, Louise accepts.
But young Poussy finds out the true nature of the relationship between the so-called mother and son. His failure convinces Luigi that he’ll never amount to anything. When he learns that Louise sold her jewlry to support him, he is so ashamed that he decides to disappear. Louise finds herself alone once again, and realizes that she cannot bear it. She decides to commit suicide. At the last moment, she changes her mind. Having chosen life, she will have to come to peace with herself.
Production: Les Films Ariane P.E. C. F. (Paris) – Compania Cinématografica Champion (Rome).
Producers: Alexandre Mnouchkine, Georges Dancigers.
Line producer: Georges Dancigers.
Screenplay: Jean-Loup Dabadie and Philippe de Broca based on the short story « L’éphèbe de Subiaco » by Jean-Louis Curtis published in the collection « Le Thé sous les cyprès ».
Script: Jean-Loup Dabadie.
Director of photography: Ricardo Aronovitch.
Cameraman: Jean-Paul Schwartz.
Editing: Françoise Javet assisted by Kouka Bernard, Michèle Nény and Isabel Garcin de Herreros.
Music: Georges Delerue.
Piano : Odette Gartenlaub.
Sound technician: Jean Louis Ducarme assisted by Jean Nény.
Sets: Constantin Méjinsky.
Make-up: Maud Bégon.
Hairdresser: Simone Knapp.
Stage manager: Alain Belmondo.
Assistant director: Denis Amar.
Script : Suzanne Durrenberger.
Photographer: Georges Pierre.
Press agent: Gilbert Guez
Minerals: Jean Lafargue, mineralogist in Annecy.
Jeanne Moreau : Louise.
Julian Negulesco : Luigi.
Yves Robert : Magnetto, le vendeur de cycles.
Didi Perego : Frédérique.
Pipo Starnazzo : le Padre.
Jill Larsen : Poussy.
Lucienne Legrand : la logeuse.
Toni Arassse : Pauline.
Luce Fabiole : Anna.
Louis Navarre : Lucien Pulpon « le baryton ».
Running time: 105 minutes.
Initial title: Louise.
Filmed: 4 October – 7 December 1971.
Distribution : Warner Columbia.
Release in Paris: 6 September 1972.
Box office : 55 043 tickets sold in five weeks in eight Paris cinemas.