cast: Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Robinson, Sylvia Marriott, and Joseph Blatchley
director: François Truffaut
94 minutes (12) 1975
widescreen ratio 1.66:1
MGM DVD Regions 2 + 4 retail
reviewed by Gary Couzens
1863. Adèle (Isabelle Adjani), younger daughter of the French writer Victor – who is himself exiled in Guernsey – arrives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an English army outpost during the American Civil War. She has followed Lieutenant Pinson (Bruce Robinson), following a brief affair with him. She is still in love with him, but he sees her as just another conquest and is no longer interested in her. Alone in a foreign country, Adèle’s desperation increases…
The Story Of Adèle H. (aka: L’histoire d’Adèle H.), a story of unrequited love, was a major success for Truffaut. It’s certainly one of his better films but its success may well depend on each viewer’s sensibility. Truffaut tells his story (which is a true one) with some detachment, which does keep this story of overwhelming, blind infatuation at a distance. Adèle isn’t always a sympathetic character, deceiving her parents about her non-existent marriage to Pinson and later trying to attract him by pretending to be pregnant. It’s a tribute to Isabelle Adjani’s performance, which was Oscar-nominated, that Adèle does keep as much of our sympathy as she does. Adjani was 19 at the time, though playing a woman who was actually 33. Bruce Robinson (then an actor, but later a screenwriter and director) is suitably handsome but rather blank as the object of Adèle’s desire, and you may well wonder what she sees in him. As a result, there’s something of an arm’s-length feel to this film, despite Truffaut’s careful craftsmanship. Nestor Almendros’ photography is a major asset, deliberately subdued during the scenes in Nova Scotia that form the bulk of the film, brighter in the final scenes set in Barbados though filmed in Dakar.
MGM’s DVD is one of five Truffaut films released simultaneously. Adèle H. is transferred in the correct ratio of 1.66:1 but, like all but one of the other discs in this collection, it’s a non-anamorphic transfer. This gives rather soft results, unfortunately.
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As the actors were all bilingual, the film was shot twice, a successful take in French being immediately followed by one in English. The final version uses a mixture of the two languages. However, the English subtitles translate all the dialogue; there isn’t an option to have them translating only the French. They’re also hard-of-hearing subtitles, which insist on prefixing certain scenes with ‘(in English)’ or ‘(in French)’. As well as the French/English soundtrack, there are dubbed versions available on this disc in German, Italian and Spanish, with subtitle options of German, German hard-of-hearing, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Portuguese and Greek. Menu screens are available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
The only extra is the US theatrical trailer, which as usual avoids any hint of subtitles. The only dialogue that features is either from the English-speaking sections of the film, or dubbed from the French into English. It’s letterboxed