Criterion Prediction #1: The Main Thing Is to Love, by Alexander Miller
Title: The Main Thing Is to Love aka That Most Important Thing: Love
Director: Andrzej Żuławski
Cast: Fabio Testi, Romy Schneider, Jacques Dutronc, Klaus Kinski
Synopsis: Photographer Servais Mont (Testi) crosses paths with weary actress Nadine Chevalier (Schneider), her overlooked talents resulting in her floundering career starring in cheap sexploitation movies. After pursuing Nadine Servais is smitten, and decides to rejuvenate her career by financing a production of Richard III as his ultimate gesture of love. With some help from his contacts in the underworld Servais manages to anonymously finance the production hoping it will be a career changing production.
Servais’ love for Nadine is anything but subtle and her husband Jacques becomes entangled in this above the mark ménage a trois/love triangle structure. The aforementioned story might sound like a paint-by-numbers romance and yet The Main thing is to Love is a dark examination of human emotion as well as the subterranean world of France’s bohemian art culture in the 1970’s.
Critique: Andrzej Żuławski’s film treats love as both an elemental force as well as a destructive compulsion. Love is a necessity like water or oxygen, but love can also bring ruin as if the characters were addicted to a deadly narcotic. Żuławski’s execution of the material is brought to life with a speedy narrative, brazenly unrestrained camera work, and great performances by an international cast. As a French, Italian and German co-production we get to see an amalgam of actors from Romy Schneider, Fabio Testi, and the infamous Klaus Kinski.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: The Main Thing is to Love is a quintessential Criterion title that isn’t in the collection; it perfectly fits the bill as far as their catalog is concerned. Given their penchant for giving renaissance to cult classics like Repo Man, and Carnival of Souls, or otherwise thought to be “lost” films like Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Main Thing is to Love can be presented as another lost classic. Met with mixed critical reviews, and difficult to market, The Main Thing is to Love floundered in cinematic purgatory in the years following its release. Jerry Harvey, the curator of the famed Z Channel, championed the film by putting it in syndication, other than that this film has had little to no exposure in the states. The Main Thing is to Love has a restricted life on home video as well despite some region 2 DVD’s which require a bit of hunting to track down; even then, they suffer from inferior subtitles and varying aspect ratios. This film is screaming for the Criterion treatment. It’s in need of further restoration. The rights shouldn’t be hard to acquire. Its inclusion would be a perfect complement alongside other popular spine numbers such as Black Orpheus, Last Year at Marienbad, and Bad Timing. Not as garish as his 1981 cult film Possession, more accessible than his hallucinatory sci-fi epic On the Silver Globe, The Main Thing is to Love is a perfect entry point for this erratic, talented director.
*Note – Please keep in mind that this is not endorsed or supported by Janus Films or the Criterion Collection. This is speculation and based on distribution and the series of films in the Criterion catalog.