Exiled from the court of Spain, Don Salluste, the chief of police, wants to take revenge on the Queen. One day he meets Ruy Blas, a young student who happens to be a lookalike of Don Cesar,... See full summary »
At the end of the 15th century, two minstrels Gilles and Dominique come from nowhere into the castle of Baron Hugues. Gilles charms Anne, Hughes' daughter, while Dominique charms both ... See full summary »
Orphee is a poet who becomes obsessed with Death (the Princess). They fall in love. Orphee's wife, Eurydice, is killed by the Princess' henchmen and Orphee goes after her into the ... See full summary »
A French farce set in Victorian London where a botanist and his wife get into trouble when they pretend to go missing in order to hide from their sanctimonious cousin -- an Anglican bishop who is leading a campaign against such writing.
Julian, a middle-aged single doctor, meets his childhood friend Pablo again. The latter is back from Africa and has just married a beautiful young blonde, Elena. Julian falls in love with ... See full summary »
José Luis López Vázquez,
Political intrigue and psychological drama run parallel. The queen is in seclusion, veiling her face for the ten years since her husband's assassination, longing to join him in death. ... See full summary »
In the First World War, when Paris is expected to fall to the Germans, the attractive widow, Princesse de Bormes, organises a convoy of cars to evacuate the wounded from the front, and ... See full summary »
Jean Cocteau's influence is indelible in this clever and sophisticated romance. Cocteau is at his most affecting when he adapts popular themes
in this case the Arthurian legend of Tristan and Isolde - and gives
them a verisimilitude that challenges even modern sensibilities.
Patrice (Jean Marais) is a stunningly handsome young man who is supremely confident of his legacy. An orphan, his Uncle Marc clearly favors him over his cousin Achille (Pierre Perial), a malevolent dwarf who is as stunted morally as he is physically. Who can blame him? Achille is the son of Marc's wife's sister Gertrude (Yvonne de Bray) an eternally scheming, gossiping shrew who clearly has designs over Marc's fortune. Things come to a head after Patrice playfully sics his dog on Achille and Gertrude uses this incident to harass her brother-in-law. Marc agrees to let Patrice find him a young wife who would help him weather the strain of living with his no-good relatives, as well as revenge himself upon Gertrude for making his life as unpleasant as possible.
Patrice manages to find Nathalie, a orphan like himself, a beautiful foreigner who lives in constant fear of a drunken brute who threatens to marry, then eventually kill her. He comes to her rescue and when he proposes marriage, she is overwhelmed that the dashing Patrice has appeared - like some deus ex machine - offering her a way out of a mean and harrowing life, but not in the way she had hoped.
What astounded me about this film was how Cocteau was able to establish within a few scenes the tensions that underline the malevolence and envy of Marc and Patrice's dysfunctional in laws, Achille and Gertrude, roles which were marvelously acted. They never descend into hand-wringing caricatures because their evil is presented as something as arbitrary as their circumstances which, as Gertrude asserts and Marc himself acknowledges, are unfair. When these characters are away from the scene, the movie tends to lose its harrowing emotional depth. When other characters are introduced in the story, although these characters are also nicely fleshed out and wonderfully acted, you can't help but think that they would never hold a candle to Achille and Gertrude.
As for Patrice, you can't help but wonder at the way the blonde behemoth lights up the screen whenever he strides into the frame. But the film makers thankfully resisted the temptation to just make the character eye candy: despite being dashing and heroic, he can also be remarkably selfish, immature and casually cruel. I can't be sure if it's just bad subtitles but his callous treatment of Achille is cause for grounds. He takes digs at his cousin's deformity and despite claiming that his pet doesn't bite, he sics his dog on someone who isn't much larger than a child. Typical of his callousness is the way he dangles an impossibly wonderful life in front of the tragic, hapless Nathalie, only to make plain his real intentions later on. When she does accept his proposal, you wonder if it was because she had backed herself into a corner from which she couldn't hope to get out of. Hers was essentially a choice of the lesser evil: living in close proximity with a man whom she clearly loves but never being able to possess him, as opposed to living with a man whom she despises and threatens her harm.
When the film was released, the shining couple of the story was either held up as an example of the ideal pairing of male and female beauty, or as noxious pro-Aryan Nazi propaganda, and it CAN BE unsettling how so Nordic these two people are that their blondeness just leaps out and clubs you on the head despite the fact that the film is in black and white. It doesn't help that the final tableau and the opening frame of a giant hand cannot escape allusions to Nazi imagery - perhaps these were thrown in to help the movie get made. Yet it also made sense - for Patrice and Nathalie indeed look like they were made for each other (their common features and origins are explained) and the beauty that had marked them out for happy ever after begets the envy that eventually destroys them.
All in all, a film that deserves to be studied as seriously as the more landmark films in Cocteau's oeuvre.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?