The title is a quotation from the opening line of the letter in Letter From an Unknown Woman (Ophuls, 1948)... 'When you read this letter I will be dead.' See more »
Interesting melodrama from Melville's early career
Max Trivet is a garage mechanic, boxer, thief and local gigolo. When his seduction of a young shop girl turns to rape, the girl's sister Thérèse, an ex-nun, plans her revenge. However, it appears that even the austere Thérèse may not be immune to his charms...
Many of the iconic Melville elements are present already in this early film: the big American cars, the scenes with night club dancers rehearsing their act, the long raincoat and hat which Max wears... The plot is more melodramatic than we would expect from the director's later work, but Melville complicates this with ambiguities that add considerably to the interest of the story: Max is portrayed as cruel and cynical, yet also sympathetic; while Thérèse, played by the singer Juliette Greco, is so cold and impassive it is hard to guess, even at the end of the film, what her feelings and intentions have been towards Max.
The use of music is very interesting in this movie, each of the main characters being given not just their own theme but their own instrument: an accordion for Max, a church organ for Thérèse, a harpsichord for her sister Denise, and a piano for the married woman whom Max seduces. There is some striking cinematography, too, notably in the scene on the beach at night, with Thérèse and Max appearing as silhouettes against the turbulent sea.
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