Although co-produced by French TV ,"Une Simple Histoire" was theatrically released and was included in "La Saison Cinematographique 1959":it's completely forgotten today and is not even included in "Le Dictionnaire Des Films";to my knowledge ,culturel channel Arte has never screened it .
It was bound to fail when it was released :a 65 min work ,in a country where the notorious Nouvelle Vague began its reign,and where people were heading for the consumer society .
The N.W. cinema recurrent features ,cult of youth contemplating their navel,middle-class or bourgeois milieus,are absent here .Hanoun's heroine is ,much more than Antoine Doinel,part of the society's rejects ,the kind of people progress will leave out in the cold when the French enjoy the sixties fruit of the thirty-year boom period after WW2.
It's actually closer to Bresson's style,but without the way that director distanced himself from events.Hanoun wants us to feel the unfortunate woman's plight within our heart and within our soul,without falling into the trap of sentiment or pity.
In the form itself,he makes us feel that his heroine is an outcast ,who cannot relate anymore to the world she lives in:we never hear her lines and a constant voice-over ,which could be overkill but is never so,repeats the answers of the persons she's speaking to.Her frames of mind are devoid of self-pity and rebellion against a selfish city.Her only joy is when she sees her little girl smile :simple pleasures,enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or fresh made croissants . She takes the subway to go to places where she may find a job,but sometimes she wanders aimlessly .
The outside world appears ,but behind the window of a car seller,or in the photo romance she tries to read ("they are good-looking,they do nothing and they've got cars").The people she meets are not all unkind: Sylvie,the daughter,is given a toy,and a man called MonsieurJean helps her find an hotel;but a woman calls her names (bitch) because a woman carrying a case with her daughter is certainly,in her mind,an unwed woman,which was a shame in those years.
We know almost nothing of this woman who tries to survive in a city hard on the poor:she comes from Lille,and she can't come back because of her mother-in-law (which proves she is married ,but we never hear about her husband)
In stark black and white ,the movie is a long flashback which ends without the usual return to the present.This is not an optimistic movie,all in all,even if a middle-age woman gives her a shelter after ,as a last resort,they both sleep on a waste ground.
A brief dream at the beginning shows the woman in a sunny landscape ;perhaps some sunlight does break through in the end.
The 1959 review read "the actor are non-professionals ";However,at least one of them ,Maria Meriko (here cast as a hotel manageress) ,was a brilliant thespian.
Anyone interested in the past of the French cinema should watch it .
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