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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

TWO ENGLISH GIRLS (1972)


Henri-Pierre Roché wrote only two novels, this and JULES ET JIM/’61, and François Truffaut filmed them both. It’s a similar story, with a gender reversal, as the two titular English sisters play a lovers’ roundelay with a passionate young Frenchman. But the tone has been altered, damp rather than celebratory, and the casting hasn’t the magical ‘rightness’ of the earlier Truffaut classic. The director narrates (at a record clip), with his usual alter-ego, Jean-Pierre Léaud, on screen as the emerging young writer who stumbles between friendship with the sensible older girl and love with her neurasthenic kid sister. Physically, the film projects a pleasing spontaneity in its handling of the turn-of-the-last-century period details (sort of an anti-Kubrick/BARRY LYNDON aesthetic), but the characters never quite measure up to all the angst and swooning romantic fatalism. Léaud, in particular, has barely enough mass for one love affair, let alone multiple trysts. Philippe Léotard, who stands out in a nice supporting role as Léaud’s romantic rival, might have been better suited. The film ends with the publication of a novel that might well be JULES ET JIM, but this seems an inadequate payoff for a life of missed opportunities.

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