The Soft Skin (1964)

Jean Desailly, Françoise Dorléac, Nelly Benedetti, Daniel Ceccaldi,
Pierre Lachenay is a well-known publisher and lecturer, married with Franca and father of Sabine, around 10. He meets an air hostess, Nicole. They start a love affair, which Pierre is hiding, but he cannot stand staying away from...
  • 7.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Jean-Louis Richard, Writer:
  • François Truffaut, Director:
  • António da Cunha Telles, Producer:
8/10 / 10

Truffaut's study of a middle-aged man losing his way in life in theage-oldfashion is caught in a mesmerizing series of quick-succession shots andsympathetically-captured quotidian details. An unthinking, self-assuredman;his wounded, passionate wife; his sweet, vulnerable lover; an inevitabletragedy. This underrated film has no real surprises, but itssure-footednessis impressive and the simple story ultimately very moving.

/ 10

Truffaut filmed La Peau Douce immediately after the internationalsuccess of "Jules et Jim". Released at the heyday of the nouvellevague, critics and audiences panned the film as a futile resort tobourgeois classicism after the unconventional antics of his previousmasterwork.

They could not have been more mistaken. Time has treated La Peau Doucebetter than most of his later efforts. It is definitely a triumph ofdirection with each scene being carefully planned and meticulouslystructured, not unlike a Hitchcock movie. In practice, Truffauttransposes Hitchcock's mechanisms of suspense into a seemingly trivialstory concerning the illicit love affair of a distinguishededitor/author with a younger stewardess and its withering consequences.The characters and the milieu of the story are effortless evoked, butthe main joy is derived from the visual inventiveness that Truffautshows in scene after scene. It's a triumph of a purely cinematic modeof expression, which Truffaut was one of the few who had reallymastered it.

/ 10

François Truffaut's fourth feature and his first true masterpiece isessentially a classic love triangle, filmed like a quiet juggernaut thateventually overwhelms all those involved. On a quick trip to Lisbon for alecture, literary essayist Jean Desailly's eye catches the lovely FrançoiseDorléac, the air hostess on his flight. Soon he's asking her out for a drinkand a love affair develops in between her flights, as his married life withseductive but demanding wife Nelly Benedetti slowly unravels. Much toTruffaut's credit, there is no judgment passed on any of the characters:whether Desailly is undergoing a dreaded mid-life crisis and wishes to beyoung again or is merely indulging an intellectual whim, whether he reallywants to prove himself he is still a man capable of passion or just lookingfor a way out of his stifling marriage, is entirely up to the viewer todecide. But the director doesn't avert his eye from the seedy unpleasantnessof the central situation, as the masterfully extended Reims interlude andthe shock ending prove. Basically, it's a film about the mess people makewhen they think they're in love, all the more disturbing because Truffautbases it all on chance meetings and missed opportunities - had Desailly notarrived late for his plane to Lisbon, had Dorléac not called him back at thehotel, maybe none of this would have happened. Marvelously shot in black andwhite by Nouvelle Vague lenser Raoul Coutard, this was the very first filmwhere Truffaut showed the world all he was capable of; it's a stunninglymodern film on the most classic of all melodramatic stories.

10/10 / 10

Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) is a successful writer. He is leavingParis for Lisbon to give a conference on "Balzac et l'argent". On theflight to Lisbon he feels instant attraction for a beautiful flightstewardess. In Lisbon he'll discover that he's staying at the samehotel as her. Pierre wastes no time and gets to know her. Her name isNicole (Françoise Dorléac). She is spontaneous and easy-going, but it'seasy to detect the romantic streak in her. They start an affair rightthere in Lisbon. She gives him her Paris telephone number. He callsher. They meet. In Paris their relationship grows in intensity.

Pierre is a married man. His wife is also a good-looking woman and hehas a 10-year-old daughter that loves him (as does his wife). Pierre isan intellectual with an organized life, maybe having had some flingshere and there, but nothing that really threatened the comfortablefoundations of his life. But now he has met Nicole. And Nicolerepresents everything that Pierre had never really experienced before:she has a real "joie de vivre" but underneath it, there is pain, andabove all, strength - the strength to overcome sadness and start allover again, that is, to live right here and now.

Pierre, on the other hand, as an intellectual, lives a life ofcompromises. His wife, Franca (Nelly Benedetti), loves him and has astrong personality. She knows exactly what she wants and is determinedto fight for it. Pierre is between two strong women. He loves Nicole -she has opened a new life, a new world for him. Will he follow hisheart? And where will his heart lead him? I think that "La Peau Douce"is one of the more personal films made by Truffaut. It has apsychological subtlety not displayed in his later works (be it hislater Antoine Doinel films, his literary adaptations, or his homages -to Hitchcock, Jean Renoir etc..). Never again would Truffaut reach thedepth of "La Peau Douce".

"La Peau Douce" reveals understanding (and tenderness) for all thecharacters, but alongside these traits there's also a bitter irony andeven some touches of dark comedy. The characters are shown in all theirweaknesses and beauty. In later Truffaut films the tenderness would bethe prevailing feature - the irony would come along in a watered-downform.

/ 10

Very poetic, early Truffaut, but already at his best. This story of amiddle-aged intellectual man who certainly should not have too much tocomplain about in his life, but wants to give it a try for whateverreasons (mid-life crisis? vanity? play instinct? the beginnings of somesort of amour fou on his part?), thus bringing about a catastrophe, isbrought to the screen in a powerful and masterly way.

It's all been described in large part by other users so far: RaoulCoutard's impressive black-and-white cinematography, the acting byDorléac, Desailly and Benedetti, it all fitted very well.

What's more to mention, however, is a beautiful soundtrack by GeorgesDelerue, in my opinion a true masterpiece of film scoring, with ahaunting main theme.

This is really a film I shall keep in my heart for a long time. Icertainly prefer it to "Jules et Jim".