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Evelyne (Edwige Feuillère) works as a dancer in a sleazy nightclub, trying to scrape a living for herself and her young son. When a man she loved years earlier suddenly reappears she decides to pretend, for a few days at least, that her life has been more successful. But it won't be that easy...
Evelyne is a woman imprisoned in her situation (the thick netting hanging from the walls in the nightclub remind us of this). She is trapped by poverty and by the demands of the men in her life, including her son. Her sudden impulse to escape comes like a long-suppressed scream, but succeeds only in confirming the futility of the attempt and reminding her of the happiness she has lost forever. "I can live a lie for three days," she says, "but a lifetime... no."
This is Ophüls in Poetic Realism mode. Though the story is slight (Pabst's "Drame de Shanghai" and Valentin's "L'Entraineuse" are more interesting variations on the same theme), Ophüls' elegant compositions and camera movements, and the exquisite, delicate performance of Edwige Feuillère, lift this to the level of great art.
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