Ten people fleeing Rouen invaded by the Prussians, Rousset nicknamed ball of tallow among them, give to a Prussian to save other passengers who still despise. However, on later nobody could underestimate her being how brave .
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Interesting that Guy de Maupassant's first short story should also be the first feature of Mikhail Romm. His adaptation is pretty faithful to the original and his mise-en-scene is highly assured. The characters are wonderfully drawn and Elizabeth Sergeyeva is magnificent as the prostitute Elisabeth Rousset, the 'Boule de Suif' of the title. This literally translates as 'tub of lard' although the character's physique does not make her any less attractive to the male of the species. Definitely plenty of meat with the gravy! The subject represents a very negative view of human nature but is wonderfully made and succeeds in capturing a French ambience which is strangely absent from the later version made by Christian- Jaque with an entirely French cast. Jaque has appeared, rather cleverly, to combine this story with another of Maupassant's Franco-Prussian War tales 'Mademoiselle Fifi'. Unfortunately Elisabeth Rousset is played by Micheline Presle who although a splendid actress is totally miscast as nobody could ever describe her as a 'tub of lard' nor is she nearly plebeian enough. The scene where she stabs the Prussian officer, played maniacally by Louis Salou ,is brilliantly done but in the original story he is killed not by Elisabeth Rousset but by a Jewish prostitute named Rachel! Confused? The low-budget version directed by Robert Wise for producer Val Lewton is rather pedestrian and lack-lustre. Again the temptation to combine both stories has been too good to resist but ends up being neither one thing nor the other. Having previously worked with both producer and director the lovely Simone Simon was cast as Elisabeth Rousset but in order to conform to the Hollywood puritanism of the time the prostitute is now a 'laundress'! 'Boule de Suif' is acknowledged to be one of the greatest short stories of all. Whether you have read it or not I strongly urge you to watch Romm's version. C'est tout!
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