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    June Bride

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    June is the month for brides and it’s also when François Truffaut’s killer thriller The Bride Wore Black (1968) came to America 48 years ago this weekend. Embodied by captivating Jules and Jim leading lady Jeanne Moreau, this particularly calculating newlywed is a malevolent vision in each change of wardrobe and persona she undertakes to find, seduce and neutralize each of the five male gun fanciers involved in the (apparently accidental) shooting of her new husband as the newly joined couple descended the church steps on their wedding day. Since Truffaut spent the previous year interviewing Alfred Hitchcock and publishing the landmark book The Cinema According to Hitchcock, critics and audiences immediately pronounced it – whether they judged successfully or not – an homage to the Master of Suspense, which it was from the perspective of audience identification with its protagonist’s dark quest (not unlike that of the psychologically damaged Marnie of four years prior but decidedly more contained), the use of a Cornell Woolrich/William Irish source novel (like the 14-years-prior Rear Window) and the ripple effects of a tingly, ominous Bernard Herrmann score. “But Truffaut is such a poetic filmmaker that the film turns around and becomes, not at all Hitchcockian, but a gentle comedy and one of the few plausible and strange love stories in a long time,” Renata Adler wrote in The New York Times. “Miss Moreau murders five men in all—Claude Rich, Michel Bouquet, Michael Lonsdale, Daniel Boulanger and Charles Denner—and every one of them is a gem of characterization, lines witty and right, acting subtle and thought out, the decor of their lives and even the manner of their deaths inventive and expressive of personality.” In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert saw The Bride Wore Black as indeed a tribute to Hitchcock but also as an exercise that “concludes the study.” He continued: “All the same, the film is Truffaut's, not Hitchcock's. When Jeanne Moreau discovers that one of her intended victims loves her, there is an ambiguity and simple emotion you wouldn't expect in Hitchcock. Miss Moreau's motivation is explained earlier in the film than Hitchcock would have done; Truffaut is more interested in how his heroine operates than in keeping it a mystery why. He allows something else Hitchcock would never have permitted. He never explains how in the world Miss Moreau discovered the identities of her husband's killers (or were they?). But that would matter only if this were Hitchcock, and it isn't.” Hitchcock was reportedly impressed by the film but even he had notes for Truffaut. According to Jeff Stafford in his essay, the Master wrote to the Auteur: “I especially liked the scene of Moreau watching the man who had taken poison Arak dying slowly. I think my particular sense of humour might have taken them a little further so that Moreau could have picked up a cushion and put it under his head so that he could die with more comfort.” Overwhelmed by the Hitchcock comparisons, Truffaut would come to regard the finished film as a misfire, though its adherents over the past half-century strongly disagree. By the summer of 1968, Truffaut shot and released another autobiographical Antoine Doinel film, Stolen Kisses, more familiar territory for him, to regain his critical and audience-friendly mojo. Despite Truffaut’s own feelings, The Bride Wore Black (shot by the lauded New Wave cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who butted heads with the director during the shoot) has pride of prevalent placement in the filmmaker’s deep and distinctive oeuvre, just as it does in the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library.