Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Elena et les hommes
Alternate Title: Paris Does Strange Things
France/Italy, 1956. Franco London Films, Les Films Gibé, Electra Compagnia Cinematografica. Screenplay by Jean Renoir, Jean Serge, dialogue by Jean Renoir. Cinematography by Claude Renoir. Produced by Joseph Bercholz, Henry Deutschmeister, Edouard Gide. Music by Joseph Kosma. Production Design by Jean Andre. Costume Design by Rosine Delamare, Monique Plotin. Film Editing by Borys Lewin.
Ingrid Bergman is radiant as a Polish princess living in France whose love of romance has her flitting from man to man, giving them daisies for luck and refusing to settle with any of them. Her favourable impression on an army general (Jean Marais) inspires a group of sneaky politicians to enlist her help to convince him to run for federal office, which she’s happy to do except that another gentlemen (played by a dubbed Mel Ferrer) is also in love with her and on hand to cause trouble. This film may have little in the way of actual substance but it shows director Jean Renoir making something deeply enjoyable out of such flimsy material, the aesthetics are among his most dazzling, particularly the gorgeous cinematography. Not one to ever treat human relationships as silly or unimportant, though, Renoir puts a great deal of emphasis on the emotional connection between characters, hiring someone as complex and impossible to ignore as Bergman to play the lead role with as much caprice as she does conviction, showcasing her well known ability to bring you into her emotional reality. It’s not a film that will turn your mind around about love or politics but it is deeply satisfying, enhanced by a number of music hall songs including a performance by Juliette Gréco.