Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Summer re-runs: La Sirene du Mississippi

"This enthralling, erotic tale of a young millionaire and his mysterious bride is bewitching, exciting and beautiful. Written and directed by legendary cinematic genius Francois Truffaut (Jules and Jim) and featuring European superstars Catherine Deneuve (Belle De Jour) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (A Bout de Souffle), MISSISSIPPI MERMAID is nothing less than breathtaking.
Beauty is by no means rare on the lush, tropical isle of Reunion. Yet when island resident and tobacco tycoon Louis Mahe (Belmondo) first meets Julie Rouselle (Deneuve) - his mail order bride - he is completely enraptured by her radiance. But it soon becomes clear that Julie is hiding a dark secret. And when she disappears without trace, Louis vows to stop at nothing to find her - a resolution that lures him into a tangled web of relentless obsession, uncontrollable passion and untimately ... cold-blooded murder!" So, the blurb has a good write-up ...

SPOILERS AHEAD, if you have yet to see the film. Truffaut fashions another drama of obsessive love in this 1969 drama from a story by Cornell Woolrich (or William Irish) who also wrote the story used in Hitch's REAR WINDOW, and Truffaut's previous THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, that hymn to Jeanne Moreau. Like that one this also has its odd plot contrivances, like where our besotted hero follows Julie, now Marion, from Reunion in the Indian Ocean to France and finds her almost right away as she is now a hostess in a nightclub (as he sees on television). She of course had cleaned out his bank accounts but money does not feature too much in his preoccupations ... The original Julie has of course been murdered in a plot by Marion and her lover Richard, who met her on the ship MISSISSIPPI to Reunion - and he has taken the money and dumped Marion. The new Julie (Marion) shows herself to be coldly manipulative and greedy for money but Mahe is so fascinated he becomes putty in her hands as they go on the run from the detective hired by Mahe to find her - he is also being paid by the original Julie's sister .... as the plot gets more complex. There is a murder of course - Michel Bouquet is his usual excellent self as the detective getting too close.

Love is Pain is Truffaut's theme here ... can Marion finally feel love? - and it is literally pain for Mahe, as there is a packet of rat poison in the hideaway cabin they are staying near the snowy Swiss border, after he returns from another visit to Reunion to cash his all his shares in his tobacco plantation ... money they have to leave behind when the cops arrive. Marion though is a girl who likes money - there is that electric scene with Mahe, pushed beyond endurance, turns on her and denouces girls like her: not bitches or adventuresses or whores exactly, but girls who live outside normal society rules; girls who don't work but sun tan a lot, hang out around airports, travel from city to city, always on the make and finding men with money ...
The two stars are at their peak here, were Belmondo and Deneuve ever better looking? (I l love Jean-Paul too with Francoise Dorleac, Catherine's late sister, in THAT MAN FROM RIO in 1964). It is a hit and miss Truffaut though, like many of his others for me. We admired THE 400 BLOWS of course but I have not seen it since its release, LE PEAU DEUCE (with Dorleac - see label) was wonderful to finally see a year or so ago, I may be one of the few though who never cared much for JULES ET JIM or his last film FINALLY SUNDAY, but I was stunned by THE HISTORY OF ADELE H when I first saw it in the cinema - but maybe that was because of Isabelle Adjani's towering performance and looks - and of course everyone loved DAY FOR NIGHT in 1973; some of the Antoine Doinel films were merely charming (BED AND BOARD, LOVE ON THE RUN), I liked THE WILD CHILD and ANNE AND MURIEL led his more personal films .... but on the whole I relate more to Demy or Malle or Chabrol or Rene Clement.
MISSISSIPPI MERMAID is for me a preposterous romantic melodrama but also a pleasingly satisfying film as we go from that tropical island to the snowy Swiss wastes with our deliriously attractive couple. L'amour fou indeed. They go to the cinema too and see JOHNNY GUITAR ! - how Truffaut is that ...

Soon: more Deneuves including another Truffaut: THE LAST METRO, as well as INDOCHINE and a brace of Andre Techine films - and I simply loved her in Ozon's 8 WOMEN and POTICHE - as per labels, and I think I now have to have another look at her '80s vampire movie THE HUNGER.

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