“I can’t say that I’m happy with her, but I’m unable to live without her.”
The owner of a tobacco factory (Jean-Paul Belmondo) on the island of Reunion is surprised to find that his new correspondence bride (Catherine Deneuve) looks nothing like the photo she sent him — but he falls in love with her nonetheless. As he learns more about his new bride, however, he quickly finds himself involved in an increasingly tangled web of deception and murder.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Catherine Deneuve Films
- Femmes Fatales
- Francois Truffaut Films
- French Films
- Marital Problems
Based on Cornell Woolrich‘s 1947 novel Waltz Into Darkness, this Hitchcockian thriller by Francois Truffaut offers an intriguing variation on his cinematic obsession with deceptive, calculating, and/or murderous females (Deneuve’s “icy blonde” is a particularly suitable homage to Hitch’s sensibilities). To say very much about the plot would be to immediately give away spoilers, thus making it difficult to provide a fair critique of what happens throughout the two-hour film. Suffice it to say, however, that Deneuve and Belmondo make an appealing screen couple (naturally!), and that one can’t help remaining involved in their travails, even as one questions many of the foolhardy choices they make. Meanwhile, Truffaut makes excellent use of location filming in a diverse set of locales, ranging from the small island of Reunion off the coast of Madagascar, to Antibes, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Paris, and finally a snowy white cabin in the mountains. This one is worth a look.
Note: This deceptively titled film has nothing to do with either the state of Mississippi (it refers to the name of the ship Deneuve arrives on in Reunion) or to mermaids (other than an alliterative reference to a female “siren” of sorts). Be forewarned.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Catherine Deneuve as Julie
- Jean-Paul Belmondo as Louis
- Fine, diverse location shooting
- An intriguing tale of marital deception
Yes, as a good show by Truffaut. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.
One thought on “Mississippi Mermaid (1969)”
First viewing. Skip it.
Almost on the heels of his first unsatisfying Hitchcock / Woolrich homage (‘The Bride Wore Black’), Truffaut takes on another novel by Woolrich (credited by his pseudonym William Irish)… and basically ruins it. It’s not so much that he changes the locale (Louisiana) and the time-frame (the 1880s) but, in typical Truffaut fashion, the source material is overly romanticized – thus making the material more ridiculous. I’m a major Woolrich fan – and ‘Waltz Into Darkness’ isn’t even one of his best novels (it actually goes off the rails in its last third) but it’s probably his most ambitious work. And it’s still better than the film adaptation.
Truffaut takes the opportunity to make the central relationship inane… periodically in the dialogue:
Belmondo: Julie, you are adorable. You know what that means, “adorable”? (Deneuve shakes her head ‘No’.) It means worthy of adoration. Adorable.
And why exactly would someone understand ‘adoration’ but not ‘adorable’? Later, in a drippy monologue, Belmondo waxes poetic as he describes in detail the “landscape” of Deneuve’s face. Yawn.
Another major drawback is that Deneuve comes up short in the femme fatale department. She just doesn’t have the duplicity required for the role. It’s not that she was incapable as an actress (she revealed such depth in, for example, ‘Repulsion’ and would again, years later, in ‘The Hunger’). But it appears that Truffaut didn’t know what he wanted from her in ‘MM’.
‘MM’ is quite often nice to look at but, as a crime story, it lacks the proper tone for the genre and, worse, is mostly tedious.