Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mississippi Mermaid

La sirène du Mississippi (Mississippi Mermaid), 1969
Dir: Francois Truffaut
January 11, 2010

As soon as this film started to play itself out, I knew I wasn't going to be that into it any more. It's strange, because it kind of turns into a "love on the run" film in the end, but even that didn't have me too interested. I'm pretty sure that Truffaut wrote the script to this after watching Vertigo (1958) one too many times. The psycho-sexual games and wordplay get sort of ridiculous at times, and many of the scenes (like when Catherine Deneuve changes her clothes in the time it takes JP Belmondo to get to their apartment upstairs from when he rings the doorbell) seem straight out of the head of a child, but that's Truffaut for you. There's a ton of Hitchcock elements to this, and again, Truffaut does some better than others. Belmondo's fever dream in this is actually one of the best of these that I've seen. I was actually sort of enjoying this at the beginning, where Belmondo's lonely Tobacco factory owner on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean puts an ad in a newspaper looking for a wife. After corresponding with a woman for a while, one shows up (Deneuve), but it's not the woman in the picture he has been sent. He falls for her excuses, but we know that something's not right. That's weird enough, right? He gets played for a sucker, and then the film shifts to France. All the right ingredients are there for a nasty little film on self-destructive obsession, with the two main characters getting back together and getting in trouble, but then there's all that stuff about finding true love. Belmondo, though he tried to be Bogart in Breathless (1960), seems to me more of a French answer to Brando. I mean, he's not the best actor ever, but his presence on the screen is worth having him in your film. Deneuve has had finer moments too, but seeing her naked is worth it if you ask me.
The problem with Mississippi Mermaid is that despite all of it's advantages at times it veers too close to melodramatic parody when Truffaut wants it to be taken seriously.


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