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The Story of Adele H. DVD

Your February 2008 RMC Results Are In!

Preshow Entertainment: YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS


Once again we've exhausted all the menus in our Pizza Pool, the last place being Papa John's. In March, all the pizza places will recycle back.


1992's YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS is a sweet doc about the classic American movie CASABLANCA. Lauren Bacall narrates, along with clips and pix. But the true highlights were the people who were interviewed that actually worked on the film, most notably co-writer Julius Epstein, brimming with glee. Also on board, co-writer Howard Koch, AD Lee Katz, and Murray Burnett, the co-playwright (of the source material EVERYBODY COMES TO RICK'S). Not surprisingly, none of these people are still with us.

They told us their stories, like the one about using forced perspective for the airport scene (the plane was a cardboard cutout, with midgets as the mechanics). But perhaps the most interesting one was when they explained that CASABLANCA was only one of maybe 50 movies released that year (the studio would average one a week), and how no one at the time thought CASABLANCA was better or more special than any other movie.


First, an embarrassing disclosure - this was only my third Truffaut film. Well, fourth if you count CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. After all, I did skip out on a ton of those NYU film classes. But there's really no excuse for this. So I beg you, please don't shoot me. Though if there's a piano player nearby, go for it.

A psychological drama, 1975's THE STORY OF ADELE H. is a biopic of author/poet Victor Hugo's daughter, hence the H. Now most film characters have a journey. Sadly, Adele's is a journey from psychoses to near catatonia. It almost makes you prefer Bill W. to Adele H. Adele's declining mental health is at times uncomfortable to watch, though personally I didn't fidget all that much. Perhaps my experience with dating girls who are nuts has something to do with that. But praise should be thrown directly at Truffaut and star Isabelle Adjani. Somehow they crafted a character that starts off psychotic, and yet still manages to unravel into deeper depths.

Lt. Pinson (Bruce Robinson) and Adele H. (Isabelle Adjani)
Convinced she will marry Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson), Adele travels all the way from her home in the Channel Islands to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a rendezvous. We know something's off when she gives a different story to everyone she meets. When she finally does meet up with Albert, we learn that he wants nothing to do with Adele. I said "we learn this," not "she learns this." Adele is thoroughly convinced otherwise.

Now I'm not saying Adele is needy, but after she is rejected, she does tell him "I'll do anything you like," and when he tells her he's had women before her and will have women after her, she accepts it saying he could still have women after they are married. She even sends a prostitute to his home. Why oh why can't the world work like this? It's so perfect. Well, 'cept for the part that she's
insane. Anyway, when things don't go Adele's way, she sets out to damage Albert. And when that doesn't do the job, her next step is to follow him...to Barbados, where she ends up a character in her own private LES MISÉRABLES.

Adjani plays Adele with innocence and despair, rarely letting her psychoses show externally, as say, Nicolas Cage would. At times, it's scary how lost she is. And how hopeful she is. And how wrong she is. It's these layers that make TSOAH so fascinating. At any given moment, you can hate her, feel sorry for her, root for her, or be mad at her. A trick not easily pulled off.

Ordinarily, there are so many liberties in biopics that it's hard to separate fact from fiction. But in this case, Adele kept diaries of extreme copiosity (even the guy in the book store made mention of all the parchment paper she buys from him). So the real Adele Hugo had it all documented on paper. Problem is, do we believe the meanderings of a psychotic?

This is not the first time I've witnessed the beautiful Adjani play a nutcase. She was a murderess in both ONE DEADLY SUMMER and the shitty 1996 remake of DIABOLIQUE, and in CAMILLE CLAUDEL, another biopic, she's the destined-for-insanity mistress of Rodin. But ADELE was Adjani's breakout film. Still not 20, she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Not the case for her role in ISHTAR.

Francois Truffaut and Isabelle Adjani
THE STORY OF ADELE H. was made smack dab in the middle of French New Wavist François Truffaut's career. While highly acclaimed by many, I think the film is filled with too many repetitive beats. I will say (again) that it's Adele's arc from madness to more madness that makes this movie what it is.

Coincidentally (re: our Preshow), Truffaut was offered a chance to remake CASABLANCA around the same time he was shooting ADELE H., but he turned it down citing that smart yet rarely used reason: Don't mess with a classic.

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