Review: La dentelliere (1977)

La dentelliere (1977)

Directed by: Claude Goretta | 107 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Yves Beneyton, Florence Giorgetti, Annemarie Düringer, Renate Schroeter, Michel de Ré, Monique Chaumette, Jean Obé, Christian Baltauss

What actually makes people fit or not match each other well? What makes a relationship doomed to fail? Conflicting characters, difference of opinion, different interests? There are millions of couples who live their lives together – and are happy – with these principles. The inability to communicate then, due to difference in intelligence or education level? That is getting more difficult… ‘La dentellière’, a French romantic drama from 1977, goes into this. The main role is played by Isabelle Huppert – then in her early twenties. In 1978 she was awarded a BAFTA for best newcomer for this achievement.

Huppert plays Béatrice, whom everyone calls Pomme. Pomme is eighteen and an apprentice hairdresser in a busy barbershop where many older clients come to have their hair and nails done every week. For a meager wage she washes her hair and if she is lucky she receives a few centimes in tip. She does not show much ambition, but she is satisfied with what she has. Her friendship with an older, more experienced colleague provides her with enough entertainment and, conversely, this Marylène also hangs on the quiet, withdrawn Pomme.

When her relationship with a married man ends after three years, Marylène takes her friend for a short vacation to Cabourg, a coastal town in Normandy. There, the contradictions between the two friends soon become clear; while Marylène – in a see-through shirt – moves one man after another on the dance floor, the somewhat dowdy-dressed Pomme prefers to sit on a chair and politely decline a request to dance. It does not take long before Marylène has found a new friend, leaving Pomme alone in the touristic town. And then she meets François, a young man studying in Paris, who says he has been coming to Cabourg for holidays for years. François is charmed by Pomme, her shyness and silence attracts him. But when the first butterflies have fluttered, and normal life in Paris resumes, the differences between the two characters come between them.

‘La dentellière’ is a beautiful character sketch of an introverted, fragile young woman and how she develops in her first relationship. Huppert is phenomenal in her portrayal, her Pomme is so pure and honest that she literally doesn’t seem to tolerate make up. It simply does not occur to her to pretend to be different or better than she is. François falls for her vulnerability and blind faith, but also has a different agenda. It proves once again that you should not base your happiness in life on false expectations. Director Goretta keeps the brakes on and makes full use of his lead actress’s show-don’t-tell talent to reveal her hidden emotions. Nice camera work too. The heartbreaking finale will linger for a long time.

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