Soft Skin, The (1964)

“I’ve discovered life wasn’t what I expected lately.”

Synopsis:
A successful middle-aged writer (Jean Desailly) begins an affair with a beautiful young stewardess (Francoise Dorleac), but quickly finds it more challenging than he realized to hide the affair from his wife (Nelly Benedetti) and colleagues.

Genres:

Review:
Francois Truffaut’s fourth feature-length film — following on the heels of The 400 Blows (1959), Shoot the Piano Player (1960), and Jules et Jim (1962) — was this morality tale about a married man whose infatuation with a young stewardess causes his undoing. For the first 40 minutes or so, you wonder exactly where Truffaut is heading with this scenario, given that it’s one we’ve seen or heard at least a hundred times over. However, by the film’s tensely scripted “interlude” scene in Reims, we begin to understand that we’re watching a story about a clueless protagonist who’s not really savvy enough to pull off something as elaborate as the double life of an adulterer. Perhaps predictably, Desailly’s situation quickly unravels, with a truly unexpected outcome emerging by the film’s tragic end.

It’s difficult at first to accept the pudgy, nondescript Desailly as a likely candidate to attract the attentions of a sexy young thing like Dorleac — yet we soon understand that it’s his celebrity (there are posters plastered around Riems announcing his upcoming lecture) and his intellect that she finds so appealing. Meanwhile, it’s equally difficult to understand exactly why Desailly would feel a desire to cheat on his sexy wife (Benedetti) — but then again, motivations for infidelity often makes little sense! The three leads (especially Dorleac and Benedetti) all provide solid performances, and Raoul Coutard’s lovely b&w cinematography firmly grounds the film within its cinematic era. While this isn’t must-see viewing by Truffaut, it’s certainly worth a one-time look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Francoise Dorleac as Nicole
  • Nelly Benedetti as Franca
  • Raoul Coutard’s cinematography

  • The tense “Reims” interlude

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look.

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2 Responses to “Soft Skin, The (1964)”

  1. Not a must.

    ~not even very interesting, really. A man has an affair. Big deal. This extremely tired premise is aided by nothing – nothing – to make it the least bit compelling. The characters aren’t interesting. At all. Seriously, the film basically just sits there, with little else on its mind other than some guy having an affair. Yawn.

    Oh. And there’s a particularly dumb – and not all that believable – ending.

  2. Your response is exactly how I felt for far too long when beginning to watch this movie (for the first time).

    While I eventually became more engrossed in Desailly’s dilemma — primarily because of how stupidly he was handling things in Reims — I’ll agree that Truffaut needed to kick things up a notch much earlier in the film. He needed to help us see why, exactly, we should commit to watching yet another disastrously adulterous affair being played out on screen.

    But Coutard’s cinematography is gorgeous, as usual.

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