LOVE gets a gauzy going over in two fragile little films, one French and one Dutch, that opened at the Normandie yesterday.
The first is "The Five Day Lover," a flick of the directorial hand of youthful Philippe de Broca, who did "The Joker," and the flimsy, "The Love Game." In substance, it bears comparison to them. That is to say, it is quite thin and it toys with the notion of illusion as the essence of romance. But, unlike "The Joker," it misses the beneficence of good, madcap fun, and, unlike "The Love Game," it follows a pattern to the point of becoming a bore.
The idea is simply that a young wife and mother of two adorable tots meets up with a light-hearted fellow at a Paris fashion show and pops up to his apartment. She has no more shame about her husband being left at home to care for the kids than she has about taking this cuckoo away from her very best friend. All she cares is that he gives her the illusion of champagne romance, which she doesn't get from her husband, who is something of a clown and dunce.
But her best friend cares. She arranges a little party at which all four meet—the wife, the lover, the husband and, of course, herself. And out of this kooky confrontation there come understandings whereby the wife and the lover disentangle, the lover goes back to the best friend and the husband allows the wife to go on chasing illusions with other fellows, as long as she comes home week-ends.
As anyone can see, this is a gauzy and strictly whimsical design for a kind of domestic living that could only hold water in a play or film. And then its water-holding virtues would entirely depend upon the charm with which the nonsense is developed and dribbled into the thing.
In this case, M. de Broca does it a bit too airily, too patly and with too little humor or glittering assistance from his stars. Jean Seberg, looking quite different from what she has in previous films, is a bit too prosaic and posey—and immature, certainly—as the wife. Jean-Pierre Cassel, who has been prominent in both of M. de Broca's previous films, is too willowy as the lover and Francois Perier is too bumptious as the spouse. Only Micheline Presle as the good friend is credible in this fluttery romp.
The other little picture at the Normandie is a wistful reflection called "The House," a thirty-minute Dutch item made by Louis A. van Gasteren of Amsterdam. In a curiously disconnected fashion, it weaves together a string of memories that center on an old mansion as it is being pulled down and assembles a nostalgic fabric of all that has occurred in the old place.
As the reflective camera shuttles back and forth, from present to past and helter-skelter through the tatters of memory, one discovers a poignant recollection of a faithful love affair between the architect of the mansion and the young wife for whom it was built, a sleazy liaision between the master and the upstairs maid and a tragic love between the daughter of the owners and her young husband, whom the Nazis killed.
It is mainly a thing of moods and humors, done without dialogue, but with brilliant camera imagery and an excellent musical score. The narrative style is difficult, but interesting, almost Proustian.
This is a George K. Arthur import that merits warm applause.
© Bosley Crowther, "The New York Times", Dec. 14, 1961