14 February 2008 | dbdumonteil
A letter to two wives
Jean Stelli was the French Stahl or Sirk,but without the former's talent and the latter's genius.His field was melodrama and his claim to fame was "le Voile Bleu" ,the blockbuster of the Occupation years which saw Gaby Morlay take care of all the children the shameless mothers left to their own devices;there are elements of that film in "dernier amour" when the husband helps the poor damsels in distress without asking anything in return (the widow and the singer).
Stelli's precedent movie, "Cinq Tulipes Rouges" had left melodrama for a whodunit thriller during the Tour de France (bicycle race)and was probably Stelli's most enjoyable effort."Dernier Amour" comes back to melodrama with a capital M.Françoise Giroud's script is cliché itself:the flashback,in particular,comes at the most awkward moment : they talk about the impending WW2 for a while,but it seems that the war never happened :the greybeard hints at Hitler and that's it. It is as if the director ,towards the ending of the film ,suddenly appreciated how dour it all was and desperately attempted to enhance the effort by last-minute devices such as the "flash-forwards" when Annabella is driving through the night.
Fortunately,the cast is very good and makes up for the paucity of the ideas.Annabella was coming back to France (it was her second film since she had left Hollywood)but her career was shriveled and she called it a day in 1952;too bad cause she could have had a third career à la De Havilland or à la Colbert (she resembles these two actresses).Georges Marchal is cast as the handsome husband and a young Suzanne Flon as the sister who does not care anymore if her hubby cheats on her (woman's lib had not happened),and Jeanne Moreau (debut).Moreau is forever linked to the Nouvelle Vague -and particularly Truffault- but she began her career in the late forties/early fifties and at least one of her "old" films is extremely interesting (Pottier's "Meurtres" )For the record,her first "Nouvelle Vague" film -which did not sound "nouvelle vague" at all anyway- was Malle's "Ascenseur Pour l'Echafaud" ,about ten years after her debut.