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Jules, a shy, conservative Austrian (Oscar Werner) and Jim, a tall, extroverted Frenchman (Henri Serre), share a love of literature, theatre, art and drinking in a close, almost conspiratorial, friendship. They translate each other’s poetry and share girlfriends as casually as they share cigarettes. When they meet the unconventional Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) – reminding them of their favourite statute with an enigmatic smile – they are both instantly infatuated with her. Their three-way relationship is enjoyed in a carefree world, until the outbreak of the first world war. Their relationship is never the same again, and indeed, Jim gives his blessing for Jules to marry Catherine, but this serves only to complicate things as Catherine grows restless, capricious . . .and unfaithful to both. The menage a trois is not tenable, and their happiness too elusive.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
As the title implies, it’s a love triangle – but not the usual old thing. Linked throughout by its matter of fact narration, the story of the volatile and passionate three way relationship begins in 1912 and continues through and after the first world war. A terrific example of Truffaut’s instinctive, informal yet powerful and unpredictable filmmaking, albeit in a period setting, it is blessed with a wonderful score by Georges Delerue. Above all, it zings with deeply touching performances by Jeanne Moreau and the two men, Oskar Werner and Henri Serre. The strength of the film is Truffaut’s ability to create tremendously effective scenes of emotional activity. 

Considering its PG rating now, it is worth, for once, to look at the original 3 minute theatrical trailer for the film, which trumpets lines like “a subject no-one dared touch . . . can a woman sincerely love two men?”

The 5 minute ‘Introduction’ is a strange little feature, written by Serge Toubiana but read over a selection of stills by an unnamed Englishman in dry and stilted fashion, describing how the film grew from the source novel by Henri-Pierre Roche - who was 70 when he wrote it, and it was his first novel. Take heart, all late starters. 

The 7 minute interview with Truffaut in a café (black and white, sometimes shaky hand-held) is more interesting, and it’s nice to see him gradually relax and become more open and more animated than he is at the start. He also pinpoints his own fascination with the book, which does what films can’t do, he says, in showing a love triangle where both the men are terrific guys.

Truffaut repeats these sentiments on the third and longest (9 minutes) feature, discussing certain scenes, with clips from the film, as he sits at a table smoking and twirling a piece of paper. These features are of great interest for their historic or archival value alone.

Published October 30, 2003

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The Woman Next Door
The Soft Skin
Two English Girls


CAST: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre, Marie Dubois, Boris Bassiak, Danielle Bassiak, Sabine Haudepin

DIRECTOR: Francois Truffaut

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Introduction to the film; Francois Truffaut talks about the novel (1966); Truffaut talks about some scenes from the film (1965); Truffaut filmography


DVD RELEASE: September 10, 2003

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