Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France, 1945. Les Films Raoul Ploquin. Scenario and adaptation by Robert Bresspn, dialogue by Jean Cocteau, based on the story Jacques Le Fataliste et Son Maitre by Denis Diderot. Cinematography by Philippe Agostini. Produced by Raoul Ploquin. Music by Jean-Jacques Grunenwald. Production Design by Max Douy, Robert Lavallee. Costume Design by Gres, Schiaparelli. Film Editing by Jean Feyte.
María Casares rules this gorgeous French melodrama, a film bathed in syrupy romantic sentiment that is wholly easy to swallow because of Robert Bresson’s intelligent direction and Jean Cocteau’s terrific dialogue. Casares plays a high society woman who tells her aristocratic lover (Paul Bernard) that she isn’t feeling as enamoured with him as she once was, prompting a response from him that he has fallen out of love with her. Enraged by this revelation, she sets him up with a ‘dancing girl’ (i.e. prostitute) whom she has recently saved, along with her mother, from a fate worse than death, and encourages Bernard to fall in love with and marry the girl. Her hope is that she can push the courtship to marriage without making her intentions obvious, then revel in the revenge when Bernard founds out that he has actually made a laughing stock of himself. Unfortunately, as we have all learned from reading Henry James, this kind of manipulation with humans as pawns never works out to the evildoer’s intentions. Sort of a simplified Dangerous Liaisons, the film is enlivened by black and white cinematography that looks like silk and satin, plus a collection of gorgeous costumes and sexy hairstyles that the leading lady sports throughout. Casares’s performance is the key, however, her duplicitous ability to look both stony and vulnerable at the same time making for a fascinating exploration of character.
The Criterion Collection: #183