The Soft Skin – News of the cinema |


Francois Truffaut (director)

IBF (studio)

12 (certificate)

113 minutes (length)

June 06, 2022 (published)

June 08, 2022

This 1964 romantic drama depicts a married writer and literary editor’s infidelity with a young flight attendant – first a fling but then turns into an obsession that leads to tragedy. Jean Desailly and Françoise Dorléac star in this subtle study of two of the people whose initial attraction to each other cannot conceal the fact that each of them is in fact just running away from their own misfortune.

When successful and well-known writer Pierre Lachenay (J. Desailly), who is also the editor of a popular literary magazine, has to go to Lisbon for a business trip, the domestic scene of his Paris apartment seems to be that of happiness, what with Pierre chatting with his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) and playing with his young daughter Sabine (Sabine Haudepin) while frantically wondering if his wife (by his own admission is not a very good driver) should drive him to the airport or if he should take a taxi. Either way, he’s dangerously late and can’t afford to miss the flight. Luckily, the unexpected arrival of a family friend solves the problem and they even take Sabine with them so she can see the airport.
During the flight, Pierre makes eye contact with an attractive air hostess (F. Dorléac) and has the chance to pose with her after landing, with the press and photographers waiting to take pictures of the famous author.

Another encounter with the stewardess in the elevator of the hotel where he is staying arouses his curiosity – she is carrying several parcels and a huge gift box. They exchange glances but barely speak to each other. He also happens to see his room number. This gives her the perfect excuse to call her from her own room and apologize for not helping her carry her boxes and parcels and by the way, would she like to meet for a drink at the bar of the hotel ? Pointing out that it’s no use and that it’s way too early for a drink (it’s 1pm and the hotel bar isn’t open yet – what?) she politely declines. However, the next day she calls him to his room and apologizes for rejecting him so abruptly – this time she accepts the offer of a drink and the two meet up at the bar later that evening. where she introduces herself as a Nicole. Fascinated by her stories about Balzac and the like, they quickly establish a mutual interest despite the fact that she is not the intellectual type – perhaps, and the fact that she is considerably younger and attractive, is precisely what attracts him to her, but rather what attracts him. for him (it looks like he could be her father) remains a mystery… Before he returns to Paris, they have sex and she also slips a box of matches with her phone number scribbled on it into the pocket of his coat. Back in Paris, Pierre finds the box of matches while working in his office. Hesitant at first, he then calls her and over the next two weeks they meet in secret whenever his work takes him to the French capital. As their affair becomes more intense, problems arise as to where to meet for a little hassle, as Nicole does not feel like taking Pierre back to his own apartment because the concierge is a friend of his father. This whole situation gives the affair even more of a sense of the forbidden – the two lovers are like children being scolded by their parents for wrongdoing.

When Pierre has to attend an important conference in Reims where he is supposed to give a speech in front of literary luminaries, it seems like the perfect opportunity to take Nicole, who has a few days off, with her. Now it’s become apparent that in the past Nicole had a number of lovers and boyfriends but nothing ever worked out because ‘it never felt right’ – Pierre, a man married with a daughter, can he be sure that he is good for her? When they arrive at the Hotel de Reims, the first cracks begin to be felt because from the minute of his arrival, he is constantly solicited and must prepare his speech while Nicole, the intruder, begins to get angry that Pierre neglects her and accuses her of being ashamed of her company. Unable to get her to participate in the event (since there are people who know him he doesn’t want to be seen with her…) he offers to go see a movie while he gives his speech in the room hotel conference but the movie is sold out and Nicole is forced to roam the streets (couldn’t she go to a bar somewhere?) waiting for the event to end. Fed up, she creates a scene later after a client of Pierre’s takes him out for a drink – no more hanging out for poor Nicole. “I wonder what I’m doing here? she yells at Pierre later that night – indeed! Realizing they can’t stay together at the hotel unseen, he sneaks out of the building and the two drive along a country road until they reach a vacation cabin they rent for a few days. It is here, in the surrounding countryside, that Pierre takes photos of Nicole in seductive poses. Later that day he decides to call his wife in Paris to let her know that he will be delayed for a few days due to the pressures of the conference meeting – unfortunately Franca had already called the hotel in Reims when she was informed that her husband was gone. during the night. Furious, she accuses him of having an affair and hangs up.

Back in Paris, Pierre returns to an all-powerful and entirely justified confrontation during which it becomes apparent that things between him and his wife have not been going well for some time – their marriage having become a stale routine, perhaps due to the fact that Pierre’s job mostly requires him to travel the country. Fed up with Franca accusing him of having an affair (the coward can’t even admit it), he storms out of the apartment and makes it clear that he’s going to move out for good and go on with his life without his wife – who is devastated by the breakup. Pierre then asks his secretary to organize visits to apartments in Paris, choosing a private individual whom he intends to share with Nicole. As it happens and just as he is about to break the news of his divorce to Nicole, she changes her mind and informs him that the whole affair was a mistake before bidding him goodbye. Having lost everything, Pierre decides that a drink or two in his favorite bistro is in order, but the worst is yet to come…

Admittedly, the plot is thin and some things don’t quite add up…like Nicole changing her mind about her affair with Pierre despite the fact that she seems as smitten with him as he is with her. Also, why can’t Pierre admit to his wife that he is having an affair with a young air hostess named Nicole, after all, as far as he is concerned, their marriage has hit rock bottom anyway. Luckily, all is well thanks to the ever-reliable Jean Desailly and up-and-coming star Françoise Dorléac (Catherine Deneuve’s sister) who, three years later and at just 25, will die a gruesome death when her rental car hit a sign outside Nice and burst into flames.

LA PEAU DOUCE (THE SOFT SKIN) is presented on Blu-ray in an all-new 2K restoration with the following bonus material: Feature Commentary / “Between Masters at War: Truffaut and the Lessons of Alfred Hitchcock and Roberto Rosselini” ( 18 min ) / “Paris through the lens” (9 min archive extract from the early 1900s) / “Old Portugal by the ocean” (1 min archive extract from 1896) / original trailer / illustrated booklet (first pressing only).


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