Claude Anet's novel did take place in Russia,with scenes in Moscow and Crimea ;its two adaptations were set mostly in Paris.
In the screenplay based upon the book ,Arianne (Gaby Morlay) remains "Une Jeune Fille Russe" (a Russian maid):however only the ten first minutes deal with something vaguely Russian:Arianne and her (adoptive?) family exchange a handful of lines in her first language ,and there's a letter (in French!) from daddy ,who urges his daughter to come back and marry a well respected young man ;but she turns down the offer and continues her studies in La Sorbonne .On a night at the opera ,where she attends a Mozart's "Don Juan "performance ,she meets a handsome graybeard (Victor Francen);in spite of age difference between the two characters ,then begins a love story :Anna,while still a virgin,pretends she had many lovers before him (eight of them,in all).
It's sure easy to see why the writers kept Anna 's Russian nationality ,because a true French young girl must behave herself ,obey her dear father ,marry a healthy young man, raise children and forget studies .The French censorship would perhaps not have agreed with Anna's free life ,had she been a genuine French maiden .
That said,can this portrayal of a "modern" young girl grab today's audience?I have my doubts: this movie is a big bore ,the lines are not witty or funny ,in need of someone who can supply real humor,acidity,bite ,savor,someone like Sacha Guitry .The interminable scene in the opera theater where Francen eyes at Morlay is a bore to end all bores : only Mozart's music makes it bearable .No chemistry between the two principals either :Morlay's spontaneous style and Francen's solemn acting are not really in harmony .
Czinner had made a first English version ("the loves of Arianne ") the precedent year.It was probably this one which inspired .....
.....the remake by Billy Wilder in 1957 as "love in the afternoon" ,starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn; the screenplay was entirely reworked (adding a new character played by Maurice Chevalier ) but the endings are similar.Although I rank Wilder in my all time top 10 directors,I must confess his movie is not among my favorites of his either.
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