Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: La Veuve Couderc
France/Italy, 1971. Lira Films, Pegaso Cinematografica. Screenplay by Pierre Granier-Deferre, Pascal Jardin, dialogue by Pascal Jardin, based on the novel by Georges Simenon. Cinematography by Walter Wottitz. Produced by Raymond Danon. Music by Philippe Sarde. Production Design by Jacques Saulnier. Costume Design by Jacques Cottin. Film Editing by Jean Ravel.
Simone Signoret returns to her village from a shopping trip, having gone to purchase an incubator with which she hopes to raise chickens on the farm she runs mostly by herself. She gets off the bus at the same time that a stranger shows up in her quiet corner of France, played by Alain Delon with his mysterious blue eyes well on display. Signoret offers him a few days of work and he settles in, winning her affection while seducing her niece across the way, in the meantime learning about Signoret’s feud with her sister in law, who is trying to get the farm from her. The enmity between these two women is only intensified by Delon’s appearance, his shady past and possibly false identity are not that hard to spot on him, and eventually the sister-in-law’s attempt to get one over on the tough and determined Signoret reaches a devastating (if somewhat overdone) conclusion. Set in the early thirties and subtly charting the rise of fascism in the background of what otherwise seems a rural melodrama, this enjoyable soaper is most appreciable for director Pierre Granier-Deferre’s manner of capturing the setting, presenting village life as bucolic and beautiful as it is stifling and backward (most films pick one or the other). It’s obvious we’re watching two magnificent movie stars working alongside regular people, neither of them ever blend in successfully, but their chemistry is great and their charisma makes all of its sillier moments watchable.