Monday, 26 September 2011

Lillian Gish – First amongst equals... Orphans of the Storm (1921)

I made the mistake of proffering a list of “great” silent actresses the other day and someone pointed out that they didn’t include Lillian Gish.

Now, my list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive or even definitive – just a selection of people who’s work I especially appreciate (we don’t aim to be definitive or prescriptive here at ithankyou …just enthusiastic, a bit gauche and amateurish in a positive way!). I suppose also that I was aiming to mix the obvious with a few over-looked names: Jenny Hasselquist, even Asta Nielsen and Eleanor Boardman are no longer widely known, whilst Garbo and Brooks are now icons almost beyond critical assessment. The last on the list, Brigitte Helm, could also be seen by some as a one trick robo-pony and not a committed and highly versatile young actress whose career was curtailed by the situation in post-Weimar Germany.

But the amongst the greatest of them was skipped by my subconscious...possibly left out because she was so obvious and because she was pretty much the first…and the longest lasting.

Lillian Gish’ career is without peer in American cinema. Starting out before the First World War in landmark shorts such as Griffith’s Musketeers of Pig Alley (in 1912, when she was 18), she was the undoubted star of Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and the other Griffith mammoth features that followed.
Watching her in Orphans of the Storm (1921), recently screened as part of the Story of Film series, she is extraordinary.

The film is classic Griffith, telling an epic historical tale with complexity and a relentless pace - providing a mix of melodramatic, comedic playing with a growing naturalism. It is possible that Griffith’s style was becoming slightly passé by this stage of the decade but it was still vastly popular.
No small part of this would have been down to the pulling power of Lillian Gish and in this instance, her sister Dorothy - no slouch either, but perhaps with more comedic talent and a little less of her elegant range?

The two play stepsisters tossed about by the revolutionary storm of France in the late Eighteenth Century. Henriette Girard, played by Lillian, is the daughter of common folk and looks after her blind “sister", Louise, a foundling of noble birth, who her father recovered after finding her abandoned at a church.

The two are close and travel together to Paris seeking a cure for Louise's blindness only to be separated. Henriette is taken by aristocrats and sees their horrific self-absorption at a decadent party from which she is rescued by the dashing Chevalier de Vaudrey. Louisa is even less fortunate and is abducted by a group of criminals who plan to use her for professional begging. The leader of this group is Mother Forchard (Lucille la Verne) who sports a handsome moustache and plays the role like a female pantomime dame!

Henriette meets Danton (“the Abraham Lincoln of France”) and does him a good turn which may eventually help to save her life. She is a good soul and the Viscount falls for her and in doing so realises that these peasants may be onto something after all.

The pre-revolutionary situation is not explained with the insight of someone like Alexis de Tocqueville (who’s L’Ancien Regime at la Revolution I once had to fully memorize in English in order to translate the original French…long story…longer book!) ...this is not an historical documentary but an entertainment.

Griffith draws the parallels with the American situation post war and there are a number of anachronous references to the “bolshevism” of the revolutionaries. There are also uncomfortable echoes of the worst aspects of Birth of a Nation in the mob rule of the revolution and the subsequent “Reign of Terror”…Griffith believed in a natural order and the girls find themselves living in seeming aristocratic splendour even after the establishment of the Republic.

But, it’s a melodrama, enlivened by lots of genuinely funny moments and a truly thrilling closing sequence when Henriette and her love face la guillotine! Will they be saved in time?!?
Throughout it all Lillian Gish anchors the action with her completely authentic emotion. She is a superb naturalistic actor, believable and never overaught. Her character has great clarity of purpose; she’s frail but pretty darned tough and no one’s push over. She was 28 when this film was made but looks much younger. Her eyes are the core of her appeal and we all of us fall for her in the end, not necessarily romantically but certainly "protectively". We're rootin' for her all the way... her model of innocence, honest ambition and her unyielding faith in love.

Lillian Gish may have put the "human" in human interest more than any other actor prior to the increased sophistication of 1920's Hollywood. She was a World star because she was such an effective communicator of common emotions and because she was truly authentic. She was also highly intelligent and technically very gifted - far in advance of the vast majority of her contemporaries.
Lillian outlived the age of melodrama and starred in Victor Sjöström’s classic The Wind in 1928. After that her film work was less frequent but she kept going in theatre, film and television for most of the rest of her long life.
She was an absolute stand out in Charles Laughton's stunningly unsettling The Night of the Hunter (1955), easily matching Robert Mitchum’s brilliant portrayal of the psychotic preacher and providing his undoing. I know little about her casting in this film but given its striking use of silent techniques (takes a bow Murnau) this is as much a tribute to her greatness - a viable leading actor even in her 60’s and in the sophisticated post-noir 1950s.

She was able to transcend fashion more than any other actor of her stature and position. No Norma Desmond she!

Her last film featured an amazing performance alongside Betty Davies in The Whales of August in 1987...she was 94! Now markedly frail, this was still recognisably the actress who shone so forcibly from the silent screen in the twenty years before sound.
Lillian Gish is one of the very first film stars and certainly one of the greatest technically. She was naturalistic even when all around her were cavorting in melodrama and mime. This is not to knock that style of expression but to show how her understated style was so compelling. She was amongst the most popular actors in all of film history, someone who caught the mood of the times and the need for genuine human cinematic connection for both male and female audiences alike.

Orphans of the Storm and the above mentioned titles are all still in them all and pay tribute to the mistress of film!

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927) Pabst amongst the best?

GW Pabst doesn't appear to always get the same level of unfettered respect as compatriots, Lang and Murnau. His career wasn't as long and varied as the former and he maybe didn't have the cohesive style of the latter. It's been said that his success with Pandora's Box was more down to Louise Brooks' spellbinding performance but Brooksie always gave him great credit. Surely it would be churlish to say that he was similarly lucky to have Asta Nielsen and Greta Garbo making him look good in Joyless Street?
Any doubts about Pabst's technical ability are removed pretty swiftly when watching The Love of Jeanne Ney (Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney) made in 1927. The camera work is stunning and he cuts quickly moving the action and emotion along at a pace. There are hand-held shots, rapid close-ups - used to humorous effect upon the death of a parrot - and some unorthodox camera angles used, as in the excellent Abwege, to show the cross-eyed decadence of crowded bars. There are also some fascinating street scenes of Paris with the Gares du Nord and Lyon looking especially splendid in granite grey monotone.

The plot, I have to confess, is a tad confusing and there is maybe too much thrown in and one outrageously overblown character...but it works overall because of the pacing, the images and the naturalistic and powerful, performances Pabst gets out of his cast.

Jeanne Ney (Edith Jehanne) is the daughter of a French diplomat based in Russia during the post-revolutionary civil war. Her father is set up by the scheming Khalibiev (the rat like Fritz Rasp...never has an actor been more aptly entitled...) and in the confusion is shot by Jeanne's lover, Andreas Labov (the ridiculously handsome Uno Henning).

Jeanne flees to Paris, as does Khalibiev and Andreas, she takes a job with her private eye uncle Raymond (Adolph Edgar Licho) working as a secretary alongside his band of detectives. Raymond's blind daughter, Gabrielle (played with some style by Brigitte Helm) is somehow enticed into engagement by the scheming Khalibiev who threatens all their lives with his greed.

It's a complex storyline but with some great set pieces. Just why no one spots Khalibiev for the fraud he is isn't clear but he's a great villain who lusts after Jeanne and treats everyone just like the street walker he picks up and casually shoves into his hotel room. He murders Raymond for the diamond his agency has found and there's an horrific moment when Gabrielle enters the room after the deed is done. She seems to terrify Khalibiev - as if with her sightless eyes she's looking right through him - and lets out a primal scream of mourning when she finds her father's body.

Khalibiev tries to implicate Andreas but Jeanne pursues him in the misguided hope that he can clear his name. He tries to use this in the most dastardly way to seduce her on a train but Jeanne learns the truth just in time. The ending is an optimistic one and reminds me of the Hitchcock dénouement at the end of North by Northwest; well, they're both set on trains and take mere seconds to resolve the plot! Cleverly done though, we want a happy ending and there are so many lose ends, Pabst provides this crescendo of hope and lets us do the rest!

Pabst gets some superb performances out of his cast. Edith Jehanne is so natural as the lovely and in love Jeanne (quite why this film was re-titled Lusts of the Flesh for the UK is beyond me: it's all about love and not some 1950's C-movie). It's hard to see Garbo (who may have had the role had she not headed west) doing the job any better and Jehanne gives more testament to the depth of modernistic acting talent in 1920's Europe.

Uno Henning also makes an excellent leading man and is a little underused. He went on to star in Anthony Asquith's superb A Cottage on Dartmoor but the coming of sound meant he wasn't more successful outside of his native Sweden. Brigitte Helm plays Gabrielle with a frail, halting physicality... dancing the role as much as anything. To some she appears to overwork the blindness but she gives a remarkable, consistent and quite moving performance. A great actress with a considerable range: from robots to rich countessas, wandering wives and innocents like Gabrielle.

If anyone oversteps the naturalistic line in the sand it's Rasp with his pantomime expressiveness, evil moustache and weasel features. But there is surprising depth in his playing and moments when he clearly doubts himself, is in fear or, indeed, in love with Jeanne or in pity with Gabrielle. Every good tale needs a bad rat and he's the man Jeanne and Andreas must overcome to win the day.

All in all this is a thoroughly entertaining film that alongside Abwege, Joyless Street, Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora's Box, shows Pabst deserves to be aligned with the very best of Weimar directors.

The Kino DVD is very good; a fine clear print enlivened by Timothy Brock's excellent score - the music being always so important to silent films. You can buy it here.

Supplementary: Brigitte Helm as method actress? There's a fascinating quote from Close Up magazine (one of the first to treat cinema as academically important), from an interview with Pabst in 1929:

Interviewer: "Her performance of the blind girl in Jeanne Ney is one of her most striking. I don’t feel Brigitte Helm is acting. I feel she is in a trance. That she has the power to throw herself into a trance and to move and speak and live a life quite outside her own experience."

G.W. Pabst: “Ah, you see. You have it. Do you know the scene when she walks with Jeanne Ney in the streets of Paris, she was almost killed. The actor driving the taxi was not a driver really, but had had to learn. He was not very sure of his steering. Brigitte Helm walked right in front of him. I had to run before the camera to save her. Do you know why? She was blind. She simply did not see it.”

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A river runs though it... Johan (1921)

Johan is a 1921 film directed by Mauritz Stiller that is as well made and sophisticated as many Hollywood silents from later in the decade. It is a technical tour de force featuring some stunning filming of the Swedish woodlands, daring shots of boats bumping through white water and some subtle, powerful and realistic acting from the cast.

As such it is emblematic of the Swedish cinema of the time, underlying, along with Stiller’s earlier works such as the below-mentioned Thomas Graal, why the Scandinavians’ sophistication made them world leaders as cinema entered it’s third full decade.

The story is based on Juhani Aho’s novel, Juha (1911), and is set, in the film at least, in the unforgiving landscapes of the Swedish Lapland. This was a hash environment in which families had to fight hard: hunting, logging and fishing constantly risking their safety to eak out their living.

Johan, played with steadfast innocence by Mathias Tauber is one of the leading men and lives with his domineering mother (Hildegard Harring) in a basic log cabin they share with a teenage girl they rescued from the snow, Marit, played by Jenny Hasselqvist.

Into this close and closed community comes a group of strangers, hired to help them lower the depth of the lake. One of their number, played by the baby-faced but bullying, Urho Somersalmi, becomes attracted to Marit and she is torn between her loyalty to the man who brought her up and the newcomer.

Johan is already married to the shy Marit but she is young and craves excitement. Finally she allows herself to be lured away by the stranger and they make their escape riding the rapids of the river.

Marit is pursued by Johan and he finds her after, having second thoughts, she leaves a message with an elderly neighbour. Johan arrives and confronts the stranger, knocking him savagely to the ground with a log. Then it is Johan’s turn to have the wind taken from him as he realises that Marit has left of her own accord.

And yet…she has learned a lesson and wants to return. Johan accepts this and the two head off back up the river to find a new accommodation…their marriage revived by her brief infidelity?

Johan is an atmospheric film with a great consistency of tone and is a visual delight, sepia-tinted throughout to highlight the glorious, rugged rural beauty. The film makes great use of this natural backdrop and this appears to be one of Stiller’s groundbreaking gifts. "Johan is an ode to light, which is based on the composition of the sun and the splendour of the water..." the Finish film historian Antti Alanen has commented.

More than this, Stiller threw his actors and crew into the heart of the scenery, especially on the water. His camera crew lashed to an occasionally visible, raft, he follows Merit and the stranger’s journey in close quarters. These shots are really quite extraordinary. The fragile boat is tossed around by the white water and Hasselqvist and Somersalmi clearly risked their necks for the drama. That they hold their poise is amazing and yet both are clearly in character (maybe not when Somersalmi falls in for a few brief moments!).

Of the actors, Jenny Hasselqvist is the stand out with a range of subtle expression that kept reminding me of Isabelle Huppert. There is one scene when making up her mind which man to follow; she must have subtly transitioned through half a dozen emotions in just a few seconds… entirely natural and entirely convincing. She carries her self with the poise of the prima ballerina (she was a world-class ballerina too!) and is always fascinating to simply watch move.

Hasselqvist gets a lot of screen-time in this film and she carries it superbly. For me she is incontestably one of the greatest actresses of silent film and deserves to be ranked alongside Brooks, Boardman, Helm, Nielsen and Garbo. Not a “classic” beauty she was, never-the-less, beautiful. She always seemed to be in control of her emotions and had the ability to make the most of her strong, haunting and almost inscrutable face. She had deep expressive eyes and a perfect, subtle smile and she knew how to use them!

In Johan her performance matches those she gives in Sumurun and Gosta Berling referenced earlier in this blog. She is the kind of surprise that makes watching silent movies so worthwhile: someone who’s skill level enables you to re-connect with and to re-contextualise these wonderful films!

It’s not too late to start a fan club!

And Stiller is the kind of director you discover as well; working so skilfully with the “new” medium and telling a story in an original, brave and, ultimately, highly-entertaining way.

Johan was long considered lost and was only recovered in the 1960’s. This DVD was released by ZDF/ARTE in 2001 and features a clear transfer that highlights the performance and the location. The modern soundtrack, composed by the Russian composer Alexander Popov, also ably supports the action albeit with the occasional over frenetic moment!

The intertitles are in Swedish with optional German subtitles but Johan is worth it! Hopefully an English language version will become available but until then, just follow Jenny’s lead and go with the flow!

Available from

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Otley outstanding… Otley (1967)

Otley is a British comedy from 1967/8 that could so easily have been a lazy James Bond/Harry Palmer cash in. It could also have succumbed to the light-headed infantilism of films such as The Best House in London (winner of my Biggest Waste of David Hemmings Award for the following year!). But it doesn’t and Otley is surely one of the half-forgotten gems of late 60’s comedy.

A large part of the reason for this is the script from the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais – two giants of British comedy writing who went on to create The Likely Lads, Porridge and many other substantial and funny shows. Otley is of its period and does have whimsical elements but is tightly written and anchored in the everyday. It could happen to anyone. The everyday improbabilities of the story help place it higher than the duo's later spy spoof, Catch Me a Spy (a pretty good effort none-the-less, starring Kirk Douglas and the sublime Marlene Jobert).

The film is well directed by Dick Clement and shows contemporary London in an excellent light. The city is the secondary star of the film and it’s fascinating to see Portobello Road and central London as it was so recently and, in the case of Notting Hill, largely still remains…the atmosphere that the mix of rediscovered Victoriana and Swinging London seems to have lysergically suspended in aspic for evermore...

That said, the real star of this film is the brilliant Tom Courtney. He is completely believable as the hapless part-time antique dealer/part-time thief who falls into a series of unlikely situations and yet who manages to emerge unscathed against all odds. Courtney’s comic timing is every bit as acute as in Billy Liar and he delivers a wordy script well. His northern sensibilities help anchor Otley in reality, the actual 1967 and not the Carnaby Street version, and thereby renders the character eminently likeable. He could be so annoying but he only wants to survive in his disorganised way and to grab that lucky break (and, if he’s really lucky, a night with his best mate’s wife!). His motives are clear and straightforward whilst pretty much all around him are mired in corrupt duplicity.

Otley is thrown into the murderous world of spying as the mate who’s sofa he’s crashed out on gets shot by an unknown gunman. Having pocketed a pricey antique containing a tape recorder, Otley is assumed to be in on the plotting and taken back to the killer’s employees for interrogation…One thing leads to another and Otley is soon narrowly escaping a variety of deaths as the participants make themselves known.

It’s skilfully done and doesn’t lapse into slapstick or slapdash, maintaining a decent pace and uncertain tension about the good and bad guys right up till the end.

The narrative is played out using an outstanding array of British supporting actors many of whom went on to great things. Leonard Rossitter is superbly funny as the casual-but-deadly, professional hitman whilst Freddie Jones excels as a camp spy, all feminine disdain and there’s James Bolam (a true god-like genius!) as Otley’s best mate Albert.

The seeds of classic 70’s comedy are all in this film along with some of the key players!

Then there is also the exquisite Romy Schneider as Imogen, a spy who may or may not be on “our side”. Ms Schneider lights up any scene and is watchable as always, aloof and inscrutable: just what every 60’s spy movie needed, a beauty with uncertain motives. Otley wants to stay in touch after the twists and turns are over but she drops him down gently: “don’t be silly Otley”. Instead he ends up with Albert’s similarly charming other half, played by the likable Fiona Lewis, whilst her hubby is off up North…life will carry on in its haphazardly harmless way for Otley.

Otley is slight but stylish and purely entertaining. It would fit very well as a BFI Flipside release but I asked the BFI who haven’t any plans as yet although their spokesman said “we’re big fans of Otley too”.

So, a minor classic undeserved of its near obscurity and hopefully one that’ll get a re-release and recognition at some point soon.

Seek it out though for a smile and a low-level dose of nostalgia!

Monday, 12 September 2011

"The greatest director you've never heard of..." Yevgeni Bauer. After Death (1915)

Silent film never ceases to astound and, having watched a clip on Mark Cousins’ – perfectly pitched and precisely passionate - Story of Film, I was genuinely knocked out (and thoroughly entertained!) when watching After Death.

After Death (Posle Smerti) was produced in 1915 by the Russian director Yevgeni Bauer. It is nominally a romance and is concerned with the morbid fascination its central character has for the dead woman he loves.

So far so gothic but…the story’s just the framework for a series of genuinely astonishing cinematic set pieces that were, at the very least, on a par with DW Griffith and certainly way ahead of the vast majority of contemporary cinema.

The film begins in Andrei’s study which is lit in gloriously tinted yellow. This is a real room full of detail and solid furniture, not the flimsy and sparse sets of Griffith’s epics but a believable somewhere.

The lighting is adventurous as Andrei is pictured behind a bright red light box centre screen and different tints are used throughout to indicate different moods and environments The framing is also daring. Shots don't show all of the space as more literal directors of the time tended to do. Parts of objects and rooms show us enough and the focus is always on the characters. We first enter Andrei’s room through a half-open door and the majority of the screen is in darkness. “It looks like a Vermeer…” sai
d my wife and there we're shown a room flushed with bright yellow light and shadow.

The next surprise comes at the party when Andrei meets Zoya. The camera pulls back from Andrei and his friend in a smooth dolly shot that slowly reveals the social gathering then, astonishingly, it begins to pan from one social situation to another. All this is one long continuous take that Robert Altman would have been proud of. And yet, here it is, in Russia in 1915!

The surprises keep on coming at Zoya’s performance, with Bauer intercuting long-shots of the theatre with close-ups of both Zoya and Andrei, including a huge close-up of the former’s face filling the entire screen (and no doubt his heart).

Such technical skill is reinforced by the quality of this print (much cleaner than parts of Birth of a Nation for example) and it is also underpinned by an excellent and haunting new score written by Nicholas Brown and performed by an ensemble called Triptych.

Not for nothing did LA film critic Kenneth Turan descibe Yevgeni Bauer, as “the greatest director you’ve never heard of.” It's one of the most affecting and absorbing films I've seen from this period and seems ahead of its time.

Sadly Yevgeni Bauer succumbed to pneumonia in 1917 following an accident. He was just 52 and had made some 80 films of which less than half survive. He would have gone on to make many great movies in the soviet era but what remains is fascinating enough and evidence of a great visionary talent.

The most excellent BFI have this film on DVD (plus Twilight of a Woman's Soul (1913) & The Dying Swan (1916) ). Great value for a genuine classic and the chance to properly evaluate Bauer's place as a progressive film maker.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Fantastic Françoise Dorléac... Cul-de-Sac (1966), L'Homme de Rio (1964) et Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

Yesterday was a bit of a Françoise Dorléac-fest. I wanted to watch Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) to remind me of the holiday in the south of France we've just had and, having been knocked out by the elder Dorléac sister, that led me to watching Cul-de-Sac to see how she performed in a darker role.

Short answer is that she seemed capable of absolutely anything.

In Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) Francoise sings, dances and acts with almost equal expertise. She's not only up against her younger sibling (Catherine Deneuve) but also has to dance with Gene Kelly who, though he may have been 55 at the time was still a model of grace and power.

It's a slight tale of how the girls find love and in the case of their mother re-finds it, following the visit to Rochefort of a travelling fair. The girls are music and dance teachers and have ambitions to go to Paris to find their fortunes. As things turn out their romantic and career fortunes come to meet them in their home town... albeit on the way out in Catherine D's case.

It could be corny (would be if it had been British!) but it all works remarkably well with the energetic direction of Jacques Demy who ensures a consistency of tone and pace throughout and who uses the amazing light of the southern French Atlantic coast to superb affect. A musical in traditional style made in 1966 shouldn't have worked this well but Michel Legrand's music is strong, inventive and lush and is very well performed.

It's enough to cheer even the grumpiest of cynics up and is a riot of positive colours from start to finish. The Dorléac sisters also have a highly positive impact on the endorphins and rip through the film with elegant energy. No objective winner between them but I'm a fan of the red hair (as my wife, with her own splash of gold can attest!).

Cul-de-Sac is the film Françoise made immediately before Rochefort. It was directed by Roman Polanski and could hardly provide a greater contrast, filmed in plain black and white on the Northumbrian coast (North Sea no match for the Atlantic coast's sun power).

Françoise plays Teresa, a young French woman married to an older man George, played with an unstable intensity by Donald Pleasence. They live in a renovated castle on a tidal island that is only intermittently accessible from the mainland.

Into their world of upper middle class comfort come a couple of criminals on the run from a botched robbery. Lionel Stander plays Richard (Dickie) and Jack MacGowran is the mortally wounded Albie. Stander is superb as the intelligent and menacing Dickie and his gravelly tones are almost a comedic overstatement of the hard-bitten accent acquired during his Bronx upbringing.

He over-powers the couple and Richard is helpless to match him. Teresa has far more fight and is Richard's match throughout even if she is cowed by his physical threat. There's an uncomfortable atmosphere throughout the film as Polanski expertly draws his audience into this strange encounter: what would we do if our homes were so invaded?

Teresa toughens up and looks for her chance manipulating the men as far as she is able. George begins to fall apart (and Donald Pleasance was simply brilliant at doing this!) but it is not a straightforward trajectory. When a work colleague arrives, he is able to re-assume his more natural authority...a self-made man, a successful and forceful business man. Yet he cannot exert the same force against the physically and mentally implacable "Dickie".

Dorléac's performance is on a par and is nuanced and unpredictable as she looks for a way out. Playing up to Dickie, getting him drunk, forcing the situation on towards the bloody conclusion. It's not at all clear that Dickie would have killed the couple in the end and, as he staggers towards them fatally wounded he appears to pull back from shooting them: "you idiots..." he cries as if they had miss-read everything in their fear.

As she was always likely to do (even in the early scenes she is fooling around with a young male neighbour) Teresa leaves with another man, the suave Cecil played by William Franklyn (who once gave way to me whilst we were both driving on the South Circular in Putney; nice man!). She still tries to get George to come with them but stops when she realises that he's "gone". How short a time it took to break the man.

Cul-de-Sac is unsettling because none of us really know how we would cope when our lives are threatened. Polanski brilliantly sets the characters (and actors) against each other and we're unsure of their direction and their motives until the very end.

Françoise Dorléac acts superbly and shows a much darker edge than you would expect from Rochefort. An extraordinary actress who would have gone on to be every inch the global star as her sister. A car crash when she was just 25 ended her life all too soon… the epitome of tragic.

I’d also mention her performance in the excellent Jean Paul Belmondo spy-spoof, L'Homme de Rio (1964). I love this film and it's one of the very first French films I saw. I watched it again recently and it stands up for Belmondo's none-stop energy and screen presence. Françoise Dorléac matches him in terms of the comedy and glamour...a star already at 21.

This one is finally available on English subs DVD but a better quality rendering is still much needed!

Buy it anyway to see Françoise Dorléac in comedy. Buy Cul-de-Sac to see her in dark drama and buy Les Demoiselles de Rochefort to see her sing and dance.

A truly fantastic talent. It goes without saying that she was amazingly beautiful as well.