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SOFT SKIN, THE (LA PEAU DOUCE) (aka: SILKEN SKIN)(director/writer: Francois Truffaut; screenwriter: Jean Louis Richard; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; editor: Claudine Bouché; music: George Delerue; cast: Jean Desailly (Pierre Lachenay), Francoise Dorleac (Nicole Chomette), Nelly Benedetti (Franca Lachenay), Daniel Ceccaldi (Clement), Laurence Badie (Ingrid), Jean Lanier (Michel), Sabine Haudepin (Sabine, Pierre’s daughter); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Francois Truffaut/António da Cunha Telles; Fox Lorber; 1964-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Is more witty and poignant than warm and fuzzy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The fourth feature by Francois Truffaut (“The Story of Adele H.”/”The Woman Next Door”/”The Last Metro”) is filmed in black and white and is a tragi-comedy of adultery, that blends together comedy and melodrama in a mostly satisfactory way. It seems to know dark things about the human condition and how the bourgeois can be so strangely impulsive that it will lead to tragedy. Truffaut has called the pessimistic film “a truly modern love affair that takes place in planes and elevators, as it has all the harassment of modern life.” It’s cowritten by Truffaut and Jean Louis Richard, and is more witty and poignant than warm and fuzzy.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly, stage actor) is a boyish looking middle-aged family man (with a wife of 12 years Franca-Nelly Benedetti-and a young daughter named Sabine-Sabine Haudepin) and is a successful highbrow magazine editor and celebrity lecturer (his specialty is Balzac and Gide), who meets and falls in love with the pretty but shallow Nicole Chomette (Francoise Dorleac, the older sister of Catherine Deneuve), an airline stewardess, while traveling to a lecture engagement in Lisbon. The intellectual continues the affair back in Paris and has difficulty finding a place for his assignations (her landlord is strict and going to hotels makes them feel cheap). He soon dumps his suspicious passionate wife when she quarrels with him over her suspicions about his trip to Reims, as he lies only because he’s so wracked with guilt over his intentions and not because any infidelities took place there. When Pierre proposes to the attractive stewardess, the ice queen spurns him. Pierre then calls his wife for a reconciliation but can’t reach her. The crazed with jealousy Franca, having confirmed from a photo that hubby was unfaithful, locates him in his favorite restaurant and shoots him.

Generally not received with good reviews upon its release, as audiences supposedly were turned off by the unlikable protagonist. But the film fared better over time, as its contemporary story perhaps speaks to a modern audience better now than it did back in the Sixties.

REVIEWED ON 11/16/2008 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”