SOFT SKIN, THE: DVD
Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) is both a scholar and a celebrity. On his way to a lecture tour in Lisbon, he is attracted to Nicole (Françoise Dorléac), the airhostess on the plane, who in turn is responsive to his attentions. They begin an affair and although they try to keep it from Pierre's wife of 12 years, Franca (Nelly Benedetti), she catches her husband out when he lies about a weekend in Reims.
Review by Louise Keller:
Infidelity is the theme of François Truffaut's passion-filled tale, which triggers the unraveling of everything in the life of successful scholar and lecturer Pierre Lachenay, compellingly played by stage actor Jean Desailly. From a comfortable family life to whispered embraces in the shadows, Truffaut's spotlight is on Pierre who suffers far more than the burden of guilt. When the film begins, Pierre is confident and totally in charge before his life starts creeping around bends and corners. Always engaging and with superb central performances, Truffaut transmits his ultimately pessimistic philosophy about relationships in this black and white drama, although there are some surprisingly comedic moments along the way.
When we first meet Pierre, we get a sense of his highly organized home life: his supportive, passionate wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) and adoring daughter Sabine (Sabine Haudepin). On the plane to Lisbon he immediately notices Françoise Dorléac's attractive hostess Nicole (Dorleac is excellent) and we quickly know where it is leading. After their first encounter, Pierre returns to Paris, but their meetings continue. Trouble is, he can't go to her place (her landlord is strict) and they don't seem able to find a hotel room that doesn't make them feel shabby.
The weekend in Reims (he is invited to make a presentation) is a comedy of errors. They choose a mediocre hotel from the Michelin Guide and while he completes his obligations, she waits impatiently. But he is trapped by too much hospitality from which he cannot escape. The irony of the situation never escapes us, as the couple sneaks out of Reims like criminals. It is Pierre's guilty conscience that gives him away when he rings his wife and delivers a blatant lie. Things subsequently spiral downhill quickly with misunderstandings, rows and jealous rages. By the time Pierre puts on his glasses, as if to see what damage he has done, it is too late.
Pierre's affair with Nicole is not a lusty, torrid one, but a series of frustrations. Nicole seems to be nothing but a pretty face, totally lacking in sensuality and warmth. Franca, by contrast, is a woman of great passion and conviction, who the middle-aged Pierre clearly does not deserve. Chance and coincidence play a part as Franca discovers a photo stub in Pierre's pocket and the mood suddenly becomes grave. Tension mounts as the final scenes play out and Truffaut has every opportunity to show his character's weaknesses and strengths.
In the DVD special features Truffaut talks about his leading lady Francoise Dorleac (the older sister of Catherine Deneuve) and discusses selected scenes from the film.
Published June 19, 2008
Email this article
The Woman Next Door
Two English Girls
Jules and Jim
SOFT SKIN, THE: DVD (M)
Peau Douce, La
CAST: Jean Desailly, Françoise Dorléac, Nelly Benedetti, Daniel Ceccaldi, Laurence Badie, Philippe Dumat, Paule Emanuele
PRODUCER: François Truffaut, António da Cunha Telles
DIRECTOR: François Truffaut
SCRIPT: François Truffaut, Jean-Louis Richard
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Raoul Coutard
EDITOR: Claudine Bouché
MUSIC: Georges Delerue
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Not credited
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Truffaut discusses Francoise Dorleac, Truffaut discusses selected scenes from the film; Truffaut trailer collection
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
DVD RELEASE: May 31, 2008