Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Les deux Anglaises et le Continent

Englantilaiset naiset / De engelska damerna / Två engelska kvinnor / Anne and Muriel. FR © 1971 Les Films du Carrosse. P: Marcel Berbert. D: François Truffaut. SC: François Truffaut, Jean Gruault – based on the novel (1956) by Henri-Pierre Roché. DP: Nestor Almendros - Eastmancolor - 1,66. AD: Michel de Broin. M: Georges Delerue. S: René Levert. ED: Yann Dedet. LOC: near Cherbourg, train scenes in the Jura region. Commentary read by: François Truffaut. CAST: Jean-Pierre Léaud (Claude Roc), Kika Markham (Anne Brown), Stacey Tendeter (Muriel Brown), Sylvia Marriott (Mrs. Brown), Mario Mansart (Mrs. Roc), Philippe Léotard (Diurka), Irène Tunc (Ruta), Mark Peterson (Flint), David Markham (fortune-teller), Georges Delerue (the Roc family's business lawyer), Marcel Berbert (art gallerist), Annie Miler (Monique de Montferrand), Christine Pellé (Claude's secretary), Jeanne Lebre (Jeanne), Marie Irakane (maid), Sophie Jeanne (Clarisse), Jean-Claude Delbert (English policeman). Premiere version: 132 min. General distribution version: 118 min. Version originale française with passages in English. Released in Finland in the general distribution version by Suomi-Filmi with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion (François Truffaut), Helsinki, 7 June 2011.

I saw for the first time this François Truffaut film that I had believed minor but which is deeply felt in every detail.

Les deux Anglaises et le Continent - I write the last word with a capital letter because Anne and Muriel call Claude with the nickname "Le Continent" - is a companion piece to Jules et Jim. Truffaut became a friend of the writer Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959) and had access to his diaries and correspondence. Truffaut read Roché's work dozens of times till he knew it largely by heart. Roché's novels are based directly on his own experiences 50 years ago. In Jules et Jim, two men love the same woman. In Les deux Anglaises, the two Englishwomen love the same man. Claude Roc was Roché's pseudonym. For Truffaut, it was the most serious film he'd made so far. He also instructed the actors before the shooting that it's "Marcel Proust in love with the Brontë sisters".

The motto of Jules et Jim the film was actually from Les deux Anglaises the novel:
- Tu m'as dit: je t'aime.
- Je t'ai dit: attends.
- J'allais dire: prends-moi.
- Tu m'as dit: va t'en.

The story takes place in 1908-1923, from la Belle Époque to after WWI, like Jules et Jim. "15 years passed like a breath". The last sentence of dialogue by Claude: "J'ai l'air vieux aujourd'hui".

Having seen this 118 min general distribution version I now look forward to seeing the original 132 min version because I realize that Truffaut's Proustian and Ambersonian ambitions would need more breathing space.

The opening credits are a tribute to books. The end credits are a tribute to the wonderful and vibrant actors of this film. Les deux Anglaises et le Continent is full of life also because there is an important place for old people and children. Sources reveal that even Truffaut's own little daughters make an appearance.

Les deux Anglaises et le Continent is not brilliant like Jules et Jim but it is a film that can reward several viewings.

On display was a vintage, worn, 40-year-old print. The colour is slightly faded but Truffaut and Almendros' colour palette of mauve, orange, and ochre can still be appreciated. The quality of fine, soft detail is missing; perhaps there was one generation too many to begin with when this print was struck.

No comments: