Jean Cocteau – Les parents terribles AKA The Storm Within (1948)

In a grand apartment, where the disorder of an elderly couple and the order of old aunt Léonie are mixed together, Michel is the pampered child of this strange “roulotte” who seems to be rolling away from the world. Yvonne idolizes her son so much she forgets her husband. She would even forget herself if she did not have to take care of his insulin treatment. When Michel sleeps out for the first time, he vows to his mother (who he nicknames “Sophie”) that he loves Madeleine, a young woman who he wishes to present to her. At first reticent, then jealous and exclusive, Yvonne ends up capitulating before her son’s sorrow and his sister Léonie’s insistence. In the meantime, we discover that Madeleine already has an “old” lover who she wants to break up with, who is none other than Georges, Michel’s father. Aunt Léo attempts to bring order to this tragic comedy of life. (Wiki)

Jean Cocteau’s filming of his 1938 play ten years later is both a lesson in mise en scene and an illustration of the paradox that accentuating the theatrical aspects of theater on-screen makes them quintessentially cinematic (Cf André Bazin – What is cinema) – To my knowledge, the only other film that does this to the same degree is Kon Ichikawa’s An Actor’s Revenge. The accomplishment becomes all the more impressive if one considers how mannered and affected Cocteau’s material is. The sheltered son of a middle-aged couple living with the wife’s unmarried sister falls in love with a young woman without realizing that she’s his father’s mistress, and the terror faced by the mother at the prospect of losing her son is matched by terror faced by the mistress in being exposed. The characters may seem outlandish individually, but collectively they bring credence to one another as the plot unfolds in two claustrophobic flats, and the cast is masterful: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Yvonne de Bray, Marcel Andre, Gabrielle Dorzoat. Cocteau cuts and moves his camera in ways that are both eccentric and definitive. (Jonathan Rosenbaum)

Language:French / Russian (2 audio tracks)
Subtitles:English, Spanish

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