Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Soft Skin

Directed by Francois Truffaut and written by Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard, La peau doce (The Soft Skin) is the story about a married publisher who falls for an airline hostess where the two engage into an affair. The film is an exploration into a man who deals with this new affair as well as the effects it would have on his marriage. Starring Jean Desailly, Francoise Dorleac, and Nelly Benedetti. La peau doce is a mesmerizing yet radiant film from Francois Truffaut.

The film is a simple story about a publisher’s extramarital affair with an airline hostess where it would create complications for both of their lives. While it’s a plot that is simple and does play with the conventions of two people falling in love. It is more about the affair and a man’s struggle to balance the life that he has with his wife and his young lover. Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) is an important man who travels and hosts public events due to his work as a magazine editor and writer who does have a nice family life with his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) and their daughter Sabine (Sabine Haudepin). When he meets Nicole (Francoise Dorleac), he is smitten by her as they have this spark yet keep the affair a secret as Nicole would struggle with not just Pierre’s other life but also the impact the affair would have on his family.

The film’s screenplay emphasizes more on action rather than plot though there are a few moments in the script where the plot does help to move the story. Notably in the second act where Pierre and Nicole decide to have a weekend together in a small town where Pierre is to host a film screening. It would be a moment that would create complications due to Pierre’s duties and the presence of his friend Clement (Daniel Ceccaldi) where Pierre was supposed to do something with Nicole later that night. Pierre would make things up to Nicole as their moment of piece in a country cabin would be marred when Pierre calls his wife telling her that he has to spend another day. Yet, she would play a key moment in the film’s third act as the film would be more dramatic as Pierre and Nicole’s relationship would suffer in some respects as Pierre tries to figure out how to resolve everything.

Truffaut’s direction is definitely stylish in not just the compositions he creates but also in the way he presents much of the film’s drama. Notably as much of Truffaut’s direction is very intimate in the way the relationship between Pierre and Nicole builds up where he creates some unique close-ups and some striking compositions such as the shots in the hotel hallways. The compositions also has Truffaut create some tracking shots that are just entrancing to watch to display not just some of the action but also the drama. While there are a few moments of humor, it’s mostly dramatic while the film’s third act would be more melodramatic but also contain some elements of suspense over Franca’s emotional state. Overall, Truffaut creates a very compelling yet chilling film about adultery.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into the look of Paris at night as well as some of the lighting in the small town that Pierre and Nicole go to. Editor Claudine Bouche does fantastic work with the editing with its use of style in its jump-cuts and dissolves to play with the film‘s romance and drama. Costume designer Renee Rouzot does nice work with the costumes from the posh dresses that Franca wears to the more youthful look of Nicole. The film’s music by Georges Delerue is amazing for its orchestral-based score that is upbeat and playful to moments that is very somber in its serene string arrangements.

The film’s superb cast includes some notable small performances from Georges de Givray as Nicole’s father, screenwriter Jean-Louis Richard as a man harassing Nicole at the small town, Paule Emmanuele as Franca’s friend Odile, Dominique Lacarriere as Pierre’s secretary, Sabine Haudepin as Pierre and Franca’s daughter, and Daniel Ceccaldi as Pierre’s friend Clement who accompanies him to events and chats endlessly. Nelly Benedetti is brilliant as Pierre’s wife Franca as a woman who becomes blindsided by the affair as she starts to become an emotional wreck in her suspicions about Pierre’s activities. Francoise Dorleac is remarkable as Nicole as this young woman who is intrigued by Pierre and his personality as she falls for him yet has concerns about his other life with his wife. Finally, there’s Jean Desailly in a marvelous performance as Pierre as this respected publisher who falls for a young woman as he is infatuated with Nicole yet later deals with the fallbacks of his affair as he tries to figure out how to work things out in the end.

La peau doce is an extraordinary film from Francois Truffaut that features amazing performances from Jean Desailly and Francoise Dorleac. While it’s a very different film from the more quirky and humorous films of the early 60s. It is still a very captivating story in the way it explores the world of adultery. In the end, La peau doce is a fantastic film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - The Man Who Loved Women - The Green Room - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

I really need to see a Truffaut film. I feel like I'm missing out!

thevoid99 said...

Well, I am going to a 2-part piece on Truffaut for December of this year as I have a lot of films to go through for the year. I should thank Turner Classic Movies for doing a spotlight on him this past year which opened the door for me to do a piece on him.