Anne & Muriel: Les Deux Anglaises  [DVD]
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François Truffaut's second adaptation of a Henri-Pierre Roche novel (the other being 'Jules et Jim') is also about a menage-à-trois, although this time set in nineteenth century Wales. Claude (Jean-Pierre Léaud), an aspiring young French writer, spends a holiday on the Welsh coast with an English family and falls in love with the two daughters, Ann (Kika Markham) and Muriel (Stacey Tendeter).
Anne and Muriel is the story of Claude, an affluent young Frenchman at the turn of the last century and a love triangle that entangles him and a pair of English sisters.
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While JPL's lead performance, with its use of blankness, its deliberate echoes of Buster Keaton, may not entirely work (the distance he creates from us does support the other actors, and helps to create a number of subliminal, unusual nuances--much like the shyness of Azdnavour in Pianist--but it is also unsettling in ways that may not help--JPL is too young in this old man's movie), and while Kika Markham's performance is wonderfully radiant, subtle and intelligent (as also agreed by critics of the time), in many ways it is Stacy Tendeter's which is awsome--one of the most remarkable performances of all movies, there is very little else like it. It is unnerving, it burns and hurts, it is daring and painful and true. It is the performance of a lifetime.
This is a great movie about love--its joys and its impossibilities. The landscape, the music, the rituals, the choreography of bodies and movements, the lighting--all contribute. There is Rodin, sisters, the Brontes. It is full of parallels, echoes, weird symmetries, losses, moments of strtling recognition. Like something like I Know Where I'm Going, it is more than the sum of its parts. It is deeply affecting. It is, as Pauline Kael said in a mixed contemporary review, 'bewilderingly sad'.Read more ›
of film. It was a bit slow for my taste, but quite enjoyable for all that.
The plot ambles along directionlessly as Jean-Pierre Leaud's selfish young Frenchman selfishly destroys two sisters' lives without ever finding happiness himself. It's very much fantasy-fulfilment, with the two embodying Madonna and Whore and at times threatens to turn into a distaff Jules et Jim as everyone is oh so civilized about it all. The casting is also problematic. Kika Markham is fine as the free-spirit of sorts, but Stacey Tendeter is less effective as her 'purer' sister and the casting of the minor British roles is haphazard at best - David Markham is fine as a fortune teller, but the next-door neighbour is not exactly a natural actor and one scene features a London Bobby who looks about as English as Raimu on a particularly jowelly day.
It's one of those films that always seems to be on for another hour no matter how far into it you get, and it doesn't reward the effort with more than minor pleasures. But it is nice to see composer Georges Delerue in a small role as an estate agent and for all its clumsiness and overlength it has its moments and a mildly affecting ending. It's just a shame getting there took so long.