L'important c'est d'aimer (=The Important Thing is To Love) is a very emotional movie and only for serious viewers. In the commentary, director Andrzej Zulawski expressed his disappointment when one of the producers asked him to cut a particular scene because his wife fainted when she saw the screening.
The center character is Nadine (brilliantly played by Romy Schneider - who won the Cesar's best actress award for her work here), a failed actress who stars in porn movies. She tells the hero, photographer Servais (Fabio Testi - more a stuntman than an actor. However he would be very useful in the fight scenes. Anyway, he was beautiful.) when he is taking her pictures secretly that "I'm a good actress. I do good stuff. I only do this to eat. So no photos, please." This is a very difficult scene, very emotional, and Zulawski explained that he shot it later, although in the movie it was in the beginning. I saw a still image of this scene on DVD Beaver when I was comparing versions to buy and thought it was very moving.
This movie is full of people trying to survive. Their world is the world of artists: Nadine takes any roles to make ends meet, her husband Jacques (Jacques Dutronc, seemed out of place here, like a joke. He was more a singer than an actor.) lives in his own dreamy world of cinema, Servais has to work for a gangster (Claude Dauphin - here replayed his role in Casque d'or) taking dirty pictures to pay his - and his father's - debts, director Messala trying to make a successful play, German actor Karl (Klaus Kinski - mad as usual) trying to do his best on a job and find another after, etc.
The plot perhaps more focused on the triangle love story among Nadine, Servais, and Jacques. Servais falls in love with her because he recognizes her purity although she is in a mud, and tries to help her by finding her a proper job. Nadine is torn between the two men, because she loves her husband and owes him. He had taken care of her in her difficult past. However, slowly Jacques gives up, and knowing that Servais loves her with his life - unlike Jacques, who gives her anything but to live - finally Nadine tells Servais that she loves him. The ending is not that happy, because Servais is badly injured, beaten by the hitmen of the gangster he has offended when he stops working for him. Servais pays the money back, but the gangster tells him: "Life is not about money."
Interesting that the ending is a mirror to the first scene when Nadine faces a dying man and says "I love you" to him. In the first scene, it is hard for her to say that line, and my guess is, of course, with the director shouts at her all the time, how can she get the right mood? Romy Schneider was very convincing in this role of Nadine, and more for me after what I've been reading about her personal life. It is tough being an actress and after watching this movie I can understand better why many of them go to drugs or commit suicides.