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I saw Helle in a theatre in Andorra, in 1973, and have been searching for it ever since, wondering why it has remained so obscure. The setting is a village in the High Savoy mountains, providing the film a stunning scenic backdrop. By contrast, the idyllic feel of early 1950s French rural life is torn apart by the reappearance of a returned -- and embittered -- French veteran of Viet Nam. Despair, eroticism, and suicide become the themes pursued by the film, whose impact is powerful. For Americans who thought they alone were scarred by Viet Nam, it is historical tonic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Getting set to see Robert Hossein and Roger Vadim team up for the
all-star S&M fest Vice and Virtue,I stumbled across an overlooked movie
that they made 9 years later.Seeing that it had a shorter running time
to V&V,I decided that it was the perfect time to meet Hellé.
Returning home after going on a tour of duty, Julien Fournier finds himself unable to settle back into small town life.Being deaf and mute,the guys in the village have seen Hellé as "a good time girl" for years,who runs no risk of revealing what took place.Crossing paths with Julien's brother Fabrice, Hellé finds herself falling in love for the first time,and wanting to find her own voice.As Hellé starts to speak out,she discovers that she is not able to silence the sounds of her past.
View on the film:
Taking on a supporting role, Robert Hossein gives a very good performance as Kleber,whose tiredness Hossein flourishes to show a man who is out in step,and out of time with events.Joining Hossein, Bruno Pradal wonderfully fills in the background info on Julien Fournier,with stiff twitches which hint at the battered state the war has left him in.Never delivering a line of dialogue, Gwen Welles gives a mythical performance as Hellé,by Welles getting Hellé's voice across with a very expressive,emotive face that dips the film into Fantasy.
Scattering the effects of Julien's tour of duty to the background,the screenplay by co-writer/(along with Monique Lange & Jean Mailland) director Vadim blends harsh small town Drama with startling flight of Fantasy.Gradually revealing the extent that Julien's mind has broken,the writers give Fabrice and Hellé romance a breezy, fantastical shine,which is shattered by harrowing reality. Shaking the film from ever being settled, Vadim and cinematographer Claude Renoir bring noise to Hellé's world in a fragmented,ultra-stylised nature,thanks to Fabrice and Hellé romance being set alight with jagged,earthy shots of green and white,as Hellé makes her voice heard.
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