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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Guilt or Passion? 8 Is guilt or passion the driving force behind
Adele's obsession for Lt Pinson? I think the former. Maybe it's her
re-current dreams of her older sister's tragic death by drowning, maybe
it's her conscious guilt over that accident--she wished it because this
sister was her father's dear favorite---but for me it's her ENIGMATIC
SMILE while viewing her beloved's sexual encounter and her subsequent
gift of a prostitute which argue even more deeply for guilt.
For how can deep passion cut itself off from the body without abstracting itself? If her love was real, concrete, it was embodied. At that SMILE'S precise moment, passion/love must become guilt/penitence. Or, if this love started with guilt/penitence and Pinson is simply a stand-in for her dead sister, than all that can be left now is suffering. Because it is now brutally clear that the love she seeks--to heal her guilt--has been denied. The physical bond is severed. Pinson has stripped Adele of her body--and thus of her key to response. Now guilt has killed passion and has shut down possibility. Only suffering remains, and Adele's downward spiral into self-destruction has begun. Pinson's cold indifference, selfishness, and womanizing are now mere penance, which she can only passively endure. She may survive--and does, but not as a lover, saint or mystic.
Compared to "Jules & Jim", "Day for Night" or "The 400 Blows", "The Story of Adèle H." seems a minor Truffaut, but it's still a memorable film. Isabelle Adjani's sublime performance - and, we cannot deny, her mesmerizing beauty - as Victor Hugo's daughter, Adèle, blindly in love with a Lieutenant (played by Bruce Robinson, who wrote "The Killing Fields" and directed "Jennifer 8"), are the greatest force behind this film: Isabelle's face is one of the most expressive in film history, and she makes us feel all the sorrow of the tragic Adèle with a single look. Adjani should've won the Oscar she was nominated for (Louise Fletcher won it for her great, but borderline supporting performance in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), but we know the Academy doesn't tend to give the statuette to actresses in foreign films (they haven't done that since 1961... hopefully that'll change next year if Marion Cotillard deservedly wins for her groundbreaking turn as Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose"). Academy's blunder apart, this is a sad and touching story of unrequited love that makes us wonder: why do we always fall for those who don't want us? If you ever fell for someone who didn't care for you (if you're one of 99% of the population, that is), you'll relate to Adèle's story at some point, even if your case wasn't as extreme as hers (and, for your own sake, I hope it isn't!). 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an incredibly sad movie to watch because you know that Adele
was a REAL person who lived an incredibly screwed up and sad life. She
was completely wrapped up in her dream of marrying a British
soldier--so much that she followed him across the Atlantic, tells her
parents she married him (after he repeatedly refused to do so) and
planned the details of her life around this obsession. Slowly, she
moves from a form of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder to Schizophrenia and
it is especially apparent in the last portion of the movie.
I really liked Isabelle Adjani's acting--she and the director (Truffaut) really pulled you into her world and it seemed quite poignant. However, the treatment of her love (who was completely indifferent to her) seemed rather superficial. Despite the pains she put him through, his emotional range in response to this MINIMAL and this is the biggest drawback in the movie. However, as the movie is HER story and this is handled so well, I still give the movie a 9. It could have gotten a 10 if it explored him better and if it explained WHY Adele's famous father (Victor Hugo) did so little to stop her on her self-destructive decline. He only acted once she was undeniably mad.
A beautiful, haunting film. You will not be able to forget it. The performances (especially Adjani's)are sensitive and moving as is the direction and the script. Definitely the most intelligent movie about obsessive love ever made. If you are a Truffaut fan, or just a film fan in general, rent this film immediately.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Adjani plays Adele Hugo, the second daughter of author Victor Hugo.
Devastated by the loss of her sister, the movie finds her living with
her father in exile on the isle of Guernsey where she falls in love
with one Lieutenant Pinson, a British Naval Officer who seduced her and
whom her father has selected as a husband. She goes to Halifax to
rekindle a romance with him only to find that Pinson wants nothing to
do with her (marriage would mean he can't whore around) and makes it
clear that there will never be any chance of a life together. We've
sensed from the very beginning that Adele is a little mad and that
knowledge gives weight to what she does for the rest of the film.
She is undeterred by his brush-off and begins writing bogus letters back home the she and Pinson are in the throws of a love affair and later she writes of their marriage. Meanwhile she keeps pursuing him, peeping at him while he is having sex, she arranges prostitutes, slips letters into his pockets and sends him money. He is unmoved but she is remains determined even at one point stuffing a pillow under her dress and telling Pinson's father that she is pregnant with his child.
She becomes further and further detached from her own sanity until her pride, her dignity and her consciousness of the surrounding world are virtually gone. Terribly ill she sleeps in flophouses but never gives up on Pinson even though it is clear that he is a rat and isn't worth her time. Adjani is the right actress for this material because her breathtaking beauty leaves us thinking that this is a woman who could level any man with her eyes and yet her madness leaves her to pursue a man who wouldn't know a good woman if she fell on him. To look at Adele is to understand the commonality of all of Truffaut's characters who are not led by plot but are urged on by their personalities, their obsessions and their emotions. He loves long close-ups of her beautiful face and there is a sense of her tunnel vision.
What we see in that beautiful face is that there is a battle going on inside. There are two sides of Adele, one in reality and one in her writing that are battling for control over her mind. In her writings, the world is a happy, joyous place and as she descends ever further into her madness it consumes her soul. This makes her sound like just a stubborn girl who clings to an uninterested lover, but the screenplay is much smarter than that. Adele is unstable from the beginning (though it is not very apparent) and Pinson rejection fuels her madness and consumes her for the rest of her life.
Truffaut isn't interested in pushing Adele into a simple-minded role as a sympathetic waif, his characters were always more complex than that. Adele isn't molded to our affections but we pay witness to an irrational woman trapped between an unloving father and an unloving man whom her madness won't leave behind. The collaboration of Truffaut and Adjani was brilliant, they present the portrait of soul trapped by obsession but refuse to give her any ray of sunshine. The closest thing is in the end in which she wanders the streets wearing rags in a catatonic state and she doesn't recognize Pinson when she passes him on the street. Maybe, for her, this is best.
French New Wave screenwriter, film critic, actor, producer and director
Francois Truffaut's 14th feature film which he co-wrote with French
screenwriter Jean Gruault and French screenwriter and director Suzanne
Schiffman (1929-2001), is based on American academic Frances Vernor
Guille's book "Le Journal d'Adèle Hugo" from 1968. It was shot on
locations at St Peter Port, Guernesey, the Bailiwik of Guernsey,
Channel Islands in France, Barbados and Senegal. It premiered in
France, was screened at the 13th New York Film Festival in 1975 and was
produced by French film producer and actor Marcel Berbert and French
screenwriter, producer and director Claude Miller (1942-2012). It tells
the story about Adèle Hugo, the second daughter of French poet Victor
Hugo (1802-1885), who in 1863 during the second year of the American
Civil War travels under the assumed name of Miss Lewly from France to
Canadian Halifax. There she meets the elder couple Mr. and Mrs.
Saunders who runs a boarding house and who lets her stay with them.
Adéle has made her journey to find a man named Lt. Albert Pinso who is
stationed there with British troops, and she begins her search by
contacting a local notary.
Precisely and subtly directed by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut (1932-1984), this finely tuned and biographical story which is narrated from the protagonist's viewpoint, draws an incisive portrayal of a woman's unconditional and irrevocable devotion to man whom unknowingly has captured her heart. While notable for it's atmospheric milieu depictions, sterling production design by French production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko, cinematography by Spanish cinematographer Néstor Almendros (1930-1992), costume design by costume designer Jacqueline Guyot, fine editing by French film editors Martine Barraqué and Yann Dedet and prominent use of colors, this character-driven and narrative-driven period piece depicts a scrutinizing study of character and contains a good score by French composer Maurice Jaubert (1900-1940).
This historic, tragic and romantic late 19th century drama from the mid-1970s about a young and cultivated woman's afflicting and obsessive infatuation with a British officer she has chosen as her one and only, which is one of Francois Truffaut's most complicated and ambitious productions, is impelled and reinforced by it's cogent narrative structure, substantial character development and the gripping and internal acting performance by French actress Isabelle Adjani. A cinematographic, literary and psychological love-story from the mid-1970s which gained, among other awards, the NSFC Award for Best Actress Isabelle Adjani at the 10th National Society of Film Critics Awards in 1975.
"The Story of Adele H." is an account based on the life of Adele Hugo,
daughter of the great writer Victor Hugo, who led a tormented and
difficult life in Halifax, New Scotia where she tracked down the man of
her life, a military (Bruce Robinson) who after this desperate act of
the woman decided to dump her away. Will she get over this guy? No, and
the film shows us an obsessive woman (stalker if you prefer) that seems
to love this guy with a power and ferocity that she'll do anything to
be close to him.
Putting together the word disappointing along with the name of the talented director François Truffaut is almost a sinful act, and I'll try to go in another direction, but considering the mind behind the movie one can almost say that. Compared to another of his works "The Story of Adele H." seems a minor work in terms of story. Truffaut's idea was amazing, he used some of the diaries of the real Adele and added something more to the story, but almost the whole film keeps on the same path and that is the obsession of a woman for a handsome womanizer as later we find out. There are some boring parts, other less interesting parts, but nothing so compromising.
To female (and a few males I think) viewers Adele's story might be awful or something that makes of a beautiful woman a mere object considering the way she's treated by this guy and all of her attempts to make him fall for her, she throws herself into so many downer and sad levels, almost to insanity that I believe many people won't care about it. Of course you can say that she acts in that way because of the period this story is set (19th century), and nowadays women simply doesn't act that way no more, self-respect among them is beyond trying to reach attention of men. She's even more complicated (but not so dramatically complex) than Catherine of "Jules & Jim", a brilliant work from Mr. Truffaut of whom I absolutely love all of his films.
Isabelle Adjani's performance as Adele is great, she makes the whole film interesting, she has a powerful presence on screen, guarantying a Academy Award nomination of Best Actress (losing the award to Louise Flecther in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"); Bruce Robinson who plays Adele's love is a good actor and as the woman says to her in some moments before he walks away from her: "You're beautiful". She's right about that, he's really all that!
If the plot wasn't too much focused on the obsession and Adele's stalking this guy, I would have enjoyed more. But even a minor film from Truffaut is a giant film among plenty other films. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well made and competent, Truffaut's "Adele H." is, at it's most basic level,
the story of a stalker. That the stalker is the daughter of Victor Hugo
simply adds to the morbid curiousity of it all.
Adjani is pretty in a simple way which lends itself well to the story. As the British soldier who is the object of Adele's all consuming passion, Bruce Robinson is callow enough that it makes you wonder why she would follow him all over the "new world" for him.
I especially like the mixing of both English and French especially in the scenes in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And the period details (like the soldier's uniforms) gives the film a very realistic feel without being overbearing.
The ending is a bit of a let down because you kind of expect some kind of melodramatic ending considering all that Adele went through. To realize (SPOILER HERE) that she did go back to France and led an OK life until her death in 1915 is, despite the fact that it's true, anti-climatic. I think it would have been more satisfying to see how she was when she went back to France. Did she recover completely? Was she still somewhat obessessed? We simply get a quickie voiceover that feels like a cheat.
If you like foreign-language films, then you need to see this movie. It's a period piece, about a young woman's obsessive love for a man--an obsession that drives her into madness. The highlight of this movie is, of course, the performance of Isabelle Adjani (who plays the title character). She gives an absolutely amazing performance in this movie (and from what I understand, she was only 19 or 20 years old when she made this film). This film kind of reminds me of Roman Polanski's "Tess", because of the colors that are used in this film, and because both films have a slow though graceful pace. This movie can also be described as an arty film--I like the creative shots in some of the scenes. What I didn't like was the fact that the subtitles moved too quickly in some scenes. But I was certainly impressed by this movie, and especially by Adjani's performance.
This is the story of Adele Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo. Adele was seduced
by a French Lieutenant who promptly left her for foreign shores. Adele
followed him for several years trying to win him back until she was found a
penniless mentally disturbed vagrant in Barbados.
Adele was the last Hugo to die (sometime in the 1940s). Isabele Adjani (also Nosferatu 1979) brings the role of Adele to life superbly.
This is a brilliant film! one of Truffaut's best.
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