The Soft Skin [La Peau Douce]  [DVD]
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Hitchcock-influenced thriller from director Francois Truffaut. Pierre (Jean Desailly) is a married, middle-aged author who begins an affair with an air stewardess (Francoise Dorleac) while on a lecture tour in Portugal. However, when his wife discovers his infidelity, she becomes consumed with a desire for revenge. The DVD has a 12 certificate due to the extras.
The Soft Skin, from one of the Nouvelle Vague's most prolific directors, Francois Truffaut, is a brilliant classic replete with intrigue, emotion, and stunning imagery. This dissection of an affair between successful publisher and novelist Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly), and airline stewardess Nicole (Francoise Dorleac), begins on Lachenay's trip to Lisbon for a lecture, On the airplane he watches, enraptured, as Nicole changes out of her work shoes and into sexy, sling-back pumps. From there, his lust for her only grows, and he begins a deeply involved affair with her that continues back in Paris. Meanwhile Lachenay's perfect bourgeoise wife, Franca (Nelly Benedetti) is entertaining friends and playing with their cute five-year-old daughter, Sabine (Sabine Haudepin), seemingly unaware of her husband's strange behaviour. But when Franca discovers that he's been cheating and may even be in love, she reacts irrationally. The Soft Skin's surprising finale is one of the most memorable in film history.
Perhaps it's Truffaut's attention to detail that builds so much tangible enotion into his films, The camera seems to skim over surfaces, examine the unattractive angles of people's faces, read street signs. In the car, the camera is riding in the back seat, but as the car speeds up, it's pressed against the windshield. In The Soft Skin, Truffaut expresses a precise emotion with each sequence. Viewers of the film are so often nervous because of the way that Lechenay's gaze flits around, blurring up the scenery, frantically. Then, when Lechenay is with his lover, Nicole, the light is bright, the gaze is steady, the mood is triumphant. In the final scenes, as the cobblestones of Parisian boulevards whizz by chaotically, we are reminded of the suspenseful clues given in Hitchcock movies, and we know what is about to happen. At once beautiful and hilariously observant, Truffaut's expressive visuals make The Soft Skin an inarguable masterpiece.
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Top Customer Reviews
There's humor and humanity there too, and the hero's painful fallibility on his disastrous dirty weekend in Reihms is one of the great don't-know-whether-to-laugh-or-to-cry moments. The ending seems a bit contrived and unlikely despite being based on an actual incident, but he somehow manages to pull that off too.
Sadly, while the previous UK DVD issue from Tartan included archive interviews with Truffaut and Francois Dorleac, these have been dropped for Cinema Club's DVD, although it does includes an excellent commentary from co-writer Jean-Louis Richard.
They could not have been more mistaken. Time has treated La Peau Douce better than most of his later efforts. It is definitely a triumph of direction with each scene being carefully planned and meticulously structured, not unlike a Hitchcock movie. In practise, Truffaut transposes Hitchcock's mechanisms of suspense into a seemingly trivial story concerning the illicit love affair of a distinguished editor/author with a younger stewardess and its withering consequences. The characters and the milieu of the story are effortless evoked, but the main joy is derived from the visual inventiveness that Truffaut shows in scene after scene. It's a triumph of a purely cinematic mode of expression, which Truffaut was one of the few who had really mastered it.
The DVD does full justice to the film with its excellent transfer and its very insightful commentary (in French with English subtitles).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This beautifully crafted film perfectly illustrates the hazards - nay foolishness - in an older man's infatuation with a younger woman, especially one from a completely different... Read morePublished 20 months ago by MichaelB