6.9/10
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The Diary of an Innocent Boy (1968)

Benjamin ou Les mémoires d'un puceau (original title)
Young innocent aristocrat Benjamin comes to live with his Countess aunt. Her lover teaches him the techniques of seduction and sends him to test them, first on the maids, then on the upper class Anne and finally on the countess herself.

Director:

Michel Deville

Writers:

Nina Companeez (original scenario), Michel Deville (original scenario) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michèle Morgan ... Comtesse Gabrielle de Valandry
Michel Piccoli ... Le comte Philippe de Saint-Germain
Pierre Clémenti ... Benjamin
Catherine Deneuve ... Anne de Clécy
Francine Bergé Francine Bergé ... Marion
Anna Gaël ... Célestine
Catherine Rouvel Catherine Rouvel ... Victorine
Tania Torrens Tania Torrens ... Mme De Chartres
Odile Versois ... La conseillère
Simone Bach Simone Bach ... Mme La Tour
Angelo Bardi Angelo Bardi ... Basile
Sacha Briquet Sacha Briquet ... Celestin
André Cellier André Cellier ... Le conseiller
Lyne Chardonnet Lyne Chardonnet ... Jacotte
Madeleine Damien Madeleine Damien ... La vieille dame
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Storyline

France, 1750s; Benjamin has spent his entire childhood and early adolescence in the sole company of his tutor Camille. Now that he is 17, he must go to live with his aunt Countess of Valandry and her lover, a Don Juan, Count Philippe de Saint-Germain, two wealthy aristocrats, at the château de Valandry. When he arrives at his aunt's estate, he is as pure as a boy of his age can be and his relatives' libertine lifestyle comes as a surprise to him. Fortunately for him, there is an abundance of attractive young women who are more than willing to help him make the transition from boyhood to manhood. After all, it is the duty of those who know to teach those who know not. It amuses Benjamin that Comte de Saint-Germain should throw over his mistress and go chasing after a younger woman, Anne, an orphan. Amid the wild revelry of a party, Anne offers herself to Benjamin to complete his initiation in the ways of love - before she takes the count as her husband. Written by lament

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Bound to be the 'IN' movie for '69! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

X | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French

Release Date:

23 March 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Diary of an Innocent Boy See more »

Filming Locations:

France

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Connections

Featured in A Gentle Woman (1969) See more »

Soundtracks

Sympony No. 88, Finale. Allegro con spirito
(title uncredited)
Music by Franz Joseph Haydn (as Haydn)
See more »

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User Reviews

Magnificent cast buoys this rite-of-passage tale
22 June 2011 | by lor_See all my reviews

Not among French director Michel Deville's finest achievements BENJAMIN remains what Graham Greene used to call (not derisively) "an entertainment" -quality for the mainstream moviegoer. Through the vagaries of film distribution (and flighty popular tastes) it has fallen into obscurity.

As indicated in its English title, film is bookended by passages read from the title hero's diary. As played by Pierre Clémenti (an icon of European decadent & avant garde cinema, here cast against type as an innocent), he's an orphan going with his loyal tutor Camille (Jacques Dufilho) to live with his aunt, the countess (radiant superstar of the '40s Michèle Morgan).

His adventures with the aristocracy are limned in the familiar "naughty but nice" style that served French cinema so well, most emblematically in many Fernandel comedies. Deville and his frequent collaborator, screenwriter & future helmer Nina Companeez, maintain a light and breezy approach that, alas, lacks the substance most film buffs want today.

It's all tease, as women of all ages, having in common uncommon beauty, can't keep their hands off Benjamin. The film was a major Paramount release, debuting in NYC at the prestigious Paris Theatre and rated X (a MIDNIGHT COWBOY-type X, not porn) for its sexual attitudes rather than any explicitness. The nudity common in Adult Cinema at the time is eschewed.

Standout performances are by Michel Piccoli, perfectly cast as the countess's lover, who boasts about his other mistresses and is sympathetic due to the actor's skills more than the writing or context. With so many fancily costumed and straining-at-bodice femmes in the cast Catherine Deneuve has no trouble standing out as Benjamin's ultimate love interest. Especially fun is her character's flightiness, given always witty lines as an invariable liar who makes sport of her constantly contradictory statements.

Clémenti is less successful in the central role, at times fading into the shrubbery with such striking and bombastic co-stars pleasantly chewing up the scenery. Having already co-starred opposite Deneuve in her triumphant BELLE DE JOUR, he was better suited to decadent or even malevolent roles with the good fortune to be cast over and over again by the leading directors of the time: Bertolucci, Pasolini, Bunuel, Jancso, Makavejev and Glauber Rocha {reads like a film festival program of the late '60s}.

Other delights include an amusing wardrobe malfunction at a garden party scene, where the countess's sort-of-loyal servant Anna Gael accidentally has a nipple popping out of her dress, but calmly adjusts her bodice without missing a beat, the take playing out and left in the final print -very cute. Catherine Rouvel, a stalwart of French eroticism, is unfortunately lost in the shuffle as another servant girl.

Piccoli sums up the tone with a great line (in the English-dubbed version at any rate) to Benjamin: "What you call debauchery I call education". Lacking the depth of his all-time best role in Rivette's LA BELLE NOISEUESE, BENJAMIN does stand as testament to Piccoli's place in history as one of cinema's essential thesps.

I waited over 40 years to see BENJAMIN, so was of course slightly disappointed by its lack of substance -got my hopes up too much. The Hollywood majors relied heavily in the '60s on foreign imports, both co-productions and pickups, to fill out their release schedules, but rights in these movies (as well as residual interest) have lapsed over the years. That's why a quality film like BENJAMIN has seen no American TV or video exposure since its initial release.

English-language print I viewed (via VSOM DVD) ran 103 minutes, contrary to the IMDb listing of a much shorter U.S. running time.


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