Francis Girod made a name for himself making really black portraits of life in France in the Nineteenth century and the Thirties of the Twentieth. No subject was too grim for this cheerful director--remember the trio of killers dissolving their victim in an acid bath (Le trio infernal, 1974). The story of Marthe Hanau, another forgotten name from the Thirties, must have appealed to Girod and Romy Schneider. Resnais had made his Stavisky with the same material and had had some success.
This story moves at the speed of a retreating glacier. Many scenes go flat for lack of interest. It takes a Renoir to draw a portrait of a society in crisis, and Girod is no Renoir. I am a fan of Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jean-Claude Brialy, Marie-France Pisier and the other stars in the cast, but they are used only for window-dressing. Happily there is Romy Schneider, the most beautiful woman in the business in those days, and she does not disappoint. Her costumes are gorgeous, her hair never looked better, and she can swoop into a room better than any other actress. The way she spits out her defiance of the corrupt, conservative officials who oppose her kept me interested in the film.
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