Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: La Cigarette
This elegant, intelligent film is the earliest extant work by Germaine Dulac, whose four previous features are lost to time. Elderly archaeologist Gabriel Signoret is hosting a tour of the museum that he is director of, drawing his group’s attention to the recently acquired mummified remains of an ancient Egyptian nobleman who poisoned himself after discovering that his beloved wife was unfaithful. Signoret is himself married to a much younger woman (Andrée Brabant) and is joyful in her companionship but, insecure about their age difference, wonders if she longs for something different. When she makes the acquaintance of a handsome young professional golf player with whom she attends a few social functions, he is convinced that they are secretly lovers and decides to do away with himself. Remembering the mummy that sits, quite comfortably, in his hallway, he injects poison into one of the cigarettes in the box on his desk, leaving the rest to fate. His simple plan gets complicated when other visitors to the room help themselves to smokes from the box, creating a more complicated situation for him as he continues to believe his wife is straying further and further away from him. Dulac’s expert storytelling employs a light touch that never allows the story, despite this seemingly silly plot description, to veer into farce, expertly examining the vulnerabilities of marriage and masculinity in the modern age while coaxing effortlessly charming performances from her cast and making a work of art out of every shot.