The Story of Adéle’s Heat
Forty years ago today, François Truffaut’s poetic, passionate and critically acclaimed The Story of Adéle H (1975) opened in France and crossed the ocean to North America – much like its driven title character – to close the New York Film Festival the following week. Out of the writings of Adéle Hugo, the daughter of France’s most beloved humanist literary icon Victor Hugo, Truffaut saw, in the words of The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, “a musical, lilting film with a tidal pull to it. It's about a woman who is destroyed by her passion for a man who is indifferent to her – a woman who realizes herself in self-destruction...Adéle is a riveting, great character because she goes all the way with it.” Played with white-hot intensity and uncommon fearlessness by 19-year-old Isabelle Adjani, Adéle journeys from her home on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands off the Normandy coast to Halifax, Nova Scotia, in pursuit of the callous British Army officer, Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson), with whom she once had a brief romance. Throughout her delusional quest of this man who left her behind and wants her gone from his life, she notates her “triumphant” fantasies in letters home and fills her diary with stratagems to win Pinson back. In fact, Adéle’s triumph is her own self-destruction in the service of love. That there is a nobility and rooting interest in her is due to Truffaut’s total immersion into Adéle’s mindset – greatly enhanced by the gorgeous cinematography of Nestor Almendros and the music of Maurice Jaubert – and, supremely, due to the amazing Adjani, who won the New York Film Critics, National Society of Film Critics and National Board of Review Best Actress Awards as well as an Oscar® nomination. The Story of Adéle H, as well as two other terrific Truffaut works about women of a more predatory nature – The Bride Wore Black (1968) starring Jeanne Moreau and Mississippi Mermaid (1970) starring Catherine Deneuve – are available on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray discs, all with informative Audio Commentaries. Among the three, see if you don’t agree that Adéle – drawn from reality but channeled through an artist’s vision – is the Truffaut heroine who brings the most heat.