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Love Story (1943)
"Douce" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  25 June 1949 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 169 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 1 critic

In Paris in 1887, Irène works as a governess to Douce, the grand-daughter of the dowager Countess de Bonafé. Douce believes she is in love with Fabien, the handsome manager of the estate. ... See full summary »

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Title: Love Story (1943)

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Cast

Cast overview:
Odette Joyeux ...
Madeleine Robinson ...
Irène Comtat
Marguerite Moreno ...
Madame de Bonafé
...
Engelbert de Bonafé
Roger Pigaut ...
Fabien Marani
Gabrielle Fontan ...
Estelle
Richard Francoeur ...
Julien (as Francoeur)
Paul Oettly ...
Le prêtre (as Oettly)
Julienne Paroli ...
La vieille Thérèse
Georges Bever ...
Le frotteur (as Bever)
Louis Florencie ...
Le palefrenier (as Florencie)
Fernand Blot ...
Le livreur
Marie-José ...
La chanteuse
Lycette Darsonval ...
La danseuse
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Storyline

In Paris in 1887, Irène works as a governess to Douce, the grand-daughter of the dowager Countess de Bonafé. Douce believes she is in love with Fabien, the handsome manager of the estate. However she cannot hope to marry him because of their class difference. Douce's widowed father, the Count de Bonafé, has a wooden leg, and is infatuated with Irène. Douce discovers that Fabien is planning to flee to Quebec with Irène, and also finds out that the Count has asked Irène to marry him. So Douce tells Fabien this and convinces him to run away with her, causing consternation in the family. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

based on novel | See All (1) »

Genres:

Drama

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Release Date:

25 June 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Love Story  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Klangfilm Eurocord)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

Joyeux Noël
6 December 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Christmas 1887. In a Parisian mansion, Douce, the bored daughter of an aristocratic family, nurtures a secret passion for Fabien, who manages the estate. But Fabien is the lover of Irène, Douce's governess, and plans to elope with her using money stolen from the family. Meanwhile, Douce's father, a widower, has also fallen in love with Irène, and his proposal of marriage sets in motion a train of events with tragic consequences...

The opening tracking shot of "Douce", across a miniature of Paris with an Eiffel Tower in construction, establishes a fin de siècle world in which new ideas are imposing themselves upon the old landscape. In the social order, too, there is evidence of change: Douce's father (Jean Debucourt) sees only good in his planned marriage to Irène (Madeleine Robinson) and in her elevation to his own social level. This elevation is depicted literally when he takes her for a ride in his newly installed lift, a symbol of his modernity in the stuffy gaslit townhouse. For him, love transcends class.

But the father's manner is too mild ("douce"). He has been wounded physically and psychologically, plagued by a sense of failure, hobbling on a wooden leg. The household is dominated by his mother the countess (Marguerite Moreno), a harridan whose starched black dresses represent her inflexible adherence to the old order and the sense of sin associated with transgression of social boundaries. As well as blocking her son's happiness, she is infusing her granddaughter Douce (Odette Joyeux) with her outdated orthodoxies, not realising that the thrill derived from breaking a taboo may become in itself a potent attraction for a modern, rebellious adolescent. The intransigence and cynicism of the crowlike old woman are the poison that saturates this house from the top down.

There's an angry polemic burning at the heart of the film, but on the surface, as in the title, all is soft and calm. "Douce" is one of the most elegant films ever made, each scene gliding smoothly into another as the characters move from room to room within the mansion. The screenplay is polished and literary, the performances intelligent and refined, the music perfectly integrated into the drama, the direction exquisitely choreographed with sumptuous camera movements to rival Ophüls. It's a drama of biting satire and of deep emotions deeply suppressed, registering only as a narrowing eyelid or a pursed lip.

And at the centre of the drama is the 17-year-old Douce herself, brilliantly played by Odette Joyeux - who was almost 30 at the time, and older than Madeleine Robinson who plays her governess. Douce is depicted on contemporary posters as a bird in a gilded cage, but her nature is more feline: playful, impulsive and by turns tender and cruel. She is experiencing love for the first time, and this makes her a vulnerable and ultimately a tragic character. As she sets out in the snow for her midnight assignation with Fabien (Roger Pigaut), her hooded cape reminds us of Little Red Riding-Hood about to meet the wolf.

"Douce" is not an anti-bourgeois film, as some have suggested. Truffaut famously remarked (in condemning films such as Autant-Lara's): "What is the value of an anti-bourgeois cinema made by the bourgeois for the bourgeois?" The countess is ridiculous and contemptible, but the servant classes, as depicted here, are little better: Irène is an opportunist, Fabien is a thief, and his haughty attitude suggests a kinship of temperament with the countess. Only the rare few such as Douce and her father, who are willing to throw aside social convention and follow their hearts, are portrayed with sympathy in this film. And that's the message of Autant-Lara the artist, not the politician.


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