Jean Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville joined forces for this adaptation of Cocteau’s wicked novel about the wholly unholy relationship between a brother and sister, Elisabeth and Paul, who close themselves off from the world by playing an increasingly intense series of mind games.
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What's all this about authorship? A script by Cocteau—let alone his narration—can make a film by Melville or Bresson feel like a portal to Cocteau's underworld. And so we get a strange blend of Melville's formal precision and Cocteau's free-form poetic links and allegories. Madly loose, but loaded with an obsessive collector's taste for youthful impulses that hold tight, even while adulthood springs up around them.
It's hard not to get lost in the story while being mesmerized by the décors and all the actors and actresses. One viewing alone is so not enough. From Decae's breathtaking cinematography to Cocteau's magnificent screenplay, all the performances guided by the genius of Melville, the editing, the production design & costume design... Not a single flaw. I wish I could watch this in a gigantic screen under the stars.
This is a fast paced and intimate look at the terrible games of cat and mouse that siblings play with each other. Quite possibly the most acidic siblings ever to grace the screen and they do it in such a cold and calculating manner.
Immediately charming cinematography, encompassing sound, but set jarringly against Cocteau’s intense narration, and the almost burlesque, exaggerated performances, as if to establish right away that it’s not my world - it’s their world (which is, in fact, a sort of encompassing burlesque). Shadow selves, embodied, grotesque and expressed via form & cinema almost more than through the story itself. A fascinating film.
While Melville takes the directorial credit, original author Cocteau's influence is undeniable. The incestuous relationship at the narrative's heart is an arduous one to endure-the constant arguing & dramatics are a suffocating onslaught. Nicole Stéphane dominates with a powerfully unhinged performance, yet her mite creates a one sided watch. A predictable climax epitomizes the lack of emotional investment throughout