The Soft Skin (1969) Image

Generally favorable reviews - based on 4 Critics What's this?

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  • Summary: (1964) It’s a coup de foudre as 40ish celebrity literary critic (well, they’re French) Jean Desailly meets 20ish stewardess Françoise Dorléac on a Lisbon lecture jaunt. Just a mid-life crisis fling — right? — but then he decides to pursue things back in Paris, where he’s already got a busy, satisfying career, an elegant apartment, an adorable daughter, and darkly sensuous wife Nelly Benedetti. An affaire du coeur never had so many practical difficulties, as places of assignation are hard to come by, hotels seem too sordid, and a Rheims lecture gig planned as a getaway sees him monopolized by provincial bourgeois groupies, especially clinging pseud acquaintance Daniel Ceccaldi. Truffaut wanted to depict “a truly modern love affair, in planes and elevators, all the harassments of la vie quotidienne,” here with close-ups of Citroën push-button ignitions, dial phones, elevator numbers, room keys, even making a “we’ll never make the flight” drive to the airport a tour de force of low-key normal life suspense. Stage great (and the toothpick-munching top cop in Melville’s Le Doulos) Desailly incarnates the cow-eyed look of a 40-year-old-going-on-16; Dorléac (Catherine Deneuve’s elder sister, who’d be killed in a car crash only three years later) is by turns bemused, honestly delighted to hear anecdotes about Balzac, bored, and confused; while the unsung Benedetti is simply a blowtorch — why’s he looking for something else? (Janus Films) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Mar 9, 2011
    The excitement in The Soft Skin, however, gives way to an intense tragedy that's INFORMED by the thrills.
  2. Reviewed by: J. Hoberman
    Mar 8, 2011
    The Soft Skin is a movie about the agony and ecstasy of an extramarital affair. Truffaut treats it like a crime film-low-key yet tense, filled with carefully planted potential "clues" and an undercurrent of anxiety.
  3. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    May 25, 2011
    What it comes down to is: Pierre is a lousy adulterer. He lacks the desire, the reason and the skill.
  4. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Mar 8, 2011
    Redemptively, the cast goes a long way: Jean Desailly is perfect as a jowly literary celeb deep in midlife crisis, while the aloof Françoise Dorléac is magnetic as his airline stewardess and all-too-scrutable love object.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. JMH
    May 7, 2012
    Truffaut's The Soft Skin opens with a sense of grand urgency, as well-known literary critic Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) is sped off to Orly Airport, frantically hoping to catch a flight from Paris to Lisbon. The sequence plays like a thriller, with Lachenay a man on the run. He's headed to Lisbon, however, simply to give a lecture on Balzac and Money because, as he puts it, he likes Balzac and doesn't dislike money. This opening sequence introduces crime-thriller touches Truffaut adopts throughout the film, winking slyly at the viewer, and highlighting and lampooning Lachenay's staid, bourgeois comfort and cluelessness. Lachenay is a conventional bore, not a man of action. On the flight, Lachenay becomes quickly infatuated with a stewardess, Nicole (Françoise Dorleac), with whom he begins an affair. Nicole is not of Lachenay's world, and Lachenay goes to outlandish, tragi-comic lengths to conceal all knowledge of her, hoping to craft for himself the best of two worlds. The two women in Lachenay's life, Nicole and his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) -- both compelling -- become the film's driving forces as they tear away at the wall Lachenay's haplessly half-erected between them. Ultimately, Franca plots her escape from Lachenay in a series of swift, sometimes shocking, and often funny events that shouldn't be spoiled here. Without giving them away, these events yield a truly memorable ending to a superb film, with Truffaut surprisingly foreshadowing elements of Quentin Tarantino's bag of tricks nearly three decades before Tarantino's first feature. Expand