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aka - Elena Et Les Hommes
France 1956
Directed by
Jean Renoir
95 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Elena And Her Men

It’s not easy to be enthusiastic about Jean Renoir’s historical farce about a Polish princess (Ingrid Bergman) who on the eve of World War I is involved in a scheme to have a famous general (Jean Marais) who has fallen in love with her, to lead a political coup and take control of the government.

A follow-up to his French Cancan (1954) which was also a musical (although this film has a much smaller musical component) this is similarly well-made and a blonde Bergman is ravishing in the lead but unless you’re particularly fond of slapstick it has little of the earlier film’s appeal. In part this is because the story seems dependent on specific historical knowledge, in part, because of broader performative traditions of the stage farce..

Made at a time when General Charles de Gaulle was being courted to lead France, perhaps there is a satirical aspect here that is lost once taken out of context.but it does not stand up on internal values alone like the comparable The Prince And The Showgirl (1957). Marais has none of the savoir faire of Jean Gabin who gave French Cancan much of its appeal whilst Mel Ferrer, who appears to be speaking his own lines in French is too stilted to make much impression as a screen lover. The overall tone of jolly farcicality also is very much of its time and for my money is more tiresome than charmant.

The best elements of the film come in the closing scene when Juliette Greco sings, Bergman and Ferrer smooch and Renoir launches into a lyrical fantasy about the persuasive powers of l’amour (when originally released in a chopped down English language version it was called "Paris Does Strange Things"). Although well-regarded by many cinéastes and Renoir specialists, Elena And Her Men is likely to leave most people scratching their heads.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Madman

 

 

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