They met 53 years ago, and we witnessed their swooning courtship on the big screen. Anne, a film producer, and Jean Louis, a race car driver, two parents raising their children alone following the death of their respective spouses, are the protagonists of Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman, a story that has become mythical, and revolutionized the way we see love. The film won two Golden Globe Awards (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress-Drama for Anouk Aimée) followed by two Oscars in 1967.
Half a century later, Jean Louis and Anne, now octogenarians - Jean Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée reprise their roles- meet again, despite forces pulling them apart, in The Best Years of a Life, Claude Lelouch’s melancholic salute to the original movie. Today, the former racing car driver suffers from memory loss. To help him, his son goes after the love that his father couldn't keep but that he evokes constantly: Anne. She will see Jean Louis again and, through long conversations and a visit to the Deauville hotel suite where it all began, they will resume their story where they left off.
For Lelouch it was the screening of the restored print of the original, A Man and a Woman, and the sight of Jean Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée looking at each other and at the same time at their 50 years-younger selves on the screen, that brought up the idea of making The Best Years of a Life. “Yeah, that was an incredible moment that I wanted to capture. But I also wanted to say that there is a moment in life where you can actually forgive yourself. It is a moment in life where any moment of happiness can actually redeem in a way, all the problems that have happened in life,” recalls the director during a meeting with the HFPA at the past Cannes Film Festival.
The Best Years of a Life is Lelouch’s 49th film (he is working on his 50th). It's in large part because of the original A Man and a Woman that he has been able to work steadily and freely all these years. “To me, this film is a miracle and I think basically we've had 52 years of miracle, in a way that could enable this film to exist.”
Interestingly, the film’s score was composed by the late Francis Lai , 1970 Golden Globe and Oscar winner for best original score for the film Love Story and a regular collaborator with Claude Lelouch ever since the famous “Chabadabada” song in A Man and a Woman, and by Calogero.