Monday 27 April 2020

One Deadly Summer - 1983 film review

Four years ago I extolled Sebastien Japrisot's novel One Deadly Summer on this blog, mentioning the film version, which dates from 1983 and benefits from a script co-written by Japrisot, along with the director Jean Becker. The film was a huge hit in France in its day and I've finally caught up with a sub-titled version.

The film came out a couple of years after Lawrence Kasdan's brilliant updating of the film noir, Body Heat and this movie has been called an example of "pastoral noir". Certainly, the French countryside, lovingly presented, is bathed in sunshine, but after a while the darkness of the story and the central character's motivations begins to dominate.

The book is subtly written and can't have been easy to film, but Japrisot's involvement means that the movie is a good one. It also has one massive plus, the casting of Isabelle Adjani as Eliane, or Elle, the young woman who seduces the amiable but naive fireman Pin-Pon (Alain Souchon). She's as much a femme fatale as the women in Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, but her motivations are subtle and the demons that possess her are, for a long time, difficult to identify.

Adjani captures Elle's beauty and wilfulness, as well as the complexity of her nature. I imagine that the nude scenes in which she appears did no harm to the film's viewing figures and I do wonder if the movie would be shot in quite the same way today. On the whole, though, the sexual content is appropriate to the storyline. It's a long film, and at times I felt it moved too slowly. But the power of the story is such that it's definitely worth waiting for the calamitous events to unfold, leading to a shocking finale. It's a very different film from Body Heat, but quite compelling.

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