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Love and the Frenchwoman

Love and the Frenchwoman(1961)

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teaser Love and the Frenchwoman (1961)

Love and the Frenchwoman (1960, La Francaise et l'amour) is what's known as a "portmanteau film," a single movie made up of a collection of short stories, linked thematically, or by characters, events, or actors. Using as its inspiration a survey on French women's attitudes towards love, sex, and marriage, Love and the Frenchwoman tells seven different stories, linked together by animated sequences humorously illustrating its premise. Each is directed by a different director and uses different casts and writers.

"Childhood," directed by Henri Decoin, shows the comic complications that result when a little girl asks the age-old question, "where do babies come from?" In "Adolescence," directed by Jean Delannoy, a teen's first kiss prompts panic from her father and understanding from her mother. Michel Boisrond's tender take on "Virginity" looks at a young engaged couple as they grapple with the temptation of pre-marital intimacy. Rene Clair's lighthearted "Marriage" follows a pair of bickering newlyweds as they travel by train to Paris on their honeymoon. In "Adultery," directed by Henri Verneuil, a bored wife (Dany Robin) dallies with a brash young bachelor (a compelling Jean-Paul Belmondo, in one of his early roles), and the story has a very Gallic twist. A marriage grown stale leads to "Divorce," directed by Christian-Jacque, but the couple's determination to be civilized is undermined by their lawyers. Look for Michel Serrault (who later played "Zaza" in 1978's La Cage aux folles ) as one of the lawyers. In the final episode, Jean-Paul Le Chanois's "A Woman Alone," a professional gigolo romances and tries to swindle a trio of lonely women who share a home, among them Eliane (Martine Carol, Lola Montes, 1955).

Love and the Frenchwoman was released in France in 1960 and in the U.S. the following year, during the upheaval in French cinema caused by the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), a group of young theoreticians and filmmakers who wrote about cinema in journals like Cahiers du Cinema, and worshipped form and style over content in film. As early as 1954, Francois Truffaut, then a critic, had written an article that criticized what he called "the Tradition of Quality" in French cinema, films based on literary works made by older filmmakers in an old-fashioned style. Among the "old guard" directors that Truffaut and his New Wave colleagues denounced were Delannoy, whose 1946 La Symphonie Pastorale Truffaut had attacked in his original article; Decoin, and Clair. By 1960, the trickle of New Wave films had become a steady stream, if not yet a flood, with films such as Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge (1958), Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour (1959), Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959) and Jean-Luc Godard's stunning Breathless (1960).

But the primacy of the New Wave was still in the future. Truffaut and Godard were still promising newcomers, the Tradition of Quality still ruled for the time being, and there was still room in French cinema for a well crafted bonbon about one of the French's favorite subjects, l'amour a la francaise. As Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times: "The vignettes....are as intuitive about love and its aberrations as French romantic comedies have ever been....The best of the lot....glides along with just the right assurance and tone of playfulness that a French comedy about infidelity should have."

Directors: Henri Decoin, Jean Delannoy, Michel Boisrond, Rene Clair, Henri Verneuil, Christian-Jacque, Jean-Paul Le Chanois
Screenplay: "Childhood," Felicien Marceau; "Adolescence," Louise de Vilmorin, Jacques Robert; "Virginity," Annette Wademant; "Marriage," Rene Clair; "Adultery," France Roche, Michel Audiard; "Divorce," Charles Spaak; "A Woman Alone," Marcel Ayme
Cinematography: Robert Lefebvre
Editors: Claude Durand, Henri Taverna, Louisette Hautecoeur, Borys Lewin, Jacques Desagneaux, Emma Le Chanois
Art Direction: Lucien Aguettand, Robert Gys
Music: Joseph Kosma, Paul Misraki, Jean Constantin, Jacques Metehen, Norbert Glanzberg, Henri Crolla, Georges Delerue
Principal Cast: "Childhood," Pierre-Jean Vaillard, Jacqueline Porel, Darry Cowl, Martine Lambert, Bibi Morat; "Adolescence," Sophie Desmarets, Pierre Mondy, Annie Sinigalia, Roger Pierre; "Virginity," Valerie Lagrange, Pierre Michael; "Marriage," Marie-Jose Nat, Claude Rich, Yves Robert; "Adultery," Dany Robin, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Paul Belmondo; "Divorce," Annie Girardot, Francois Perier, Jean Poiret, Michel Serrault; "A Woman Alone," Martine Carol, Silvia Monfort, Robert Lamoureux

143 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri

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