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France, 1965 (MIFF 1966, Programme 7)

Director: Georges Franju

During the war of 1914, the Princess de Bormes organises an ambulance service to the front. She is aided by the young Thomas de Fontenoy, who manages to get the necessary authorisations on account of his alleged relationship to the general of the same name. After a couple of trips, during which they have narrow escapes, the Princess gives a charity fête. Here, Thomas describes his heroic adventures to the Princess's daughter, Henriette, who senses that he still bears a nostalgia for the trenches. He manages to get a post of the Belgian front and begins ot assume the character he has been dreaming of. . .

Based on the Cocteau novel, the film was assigned to Georges Franju when Cocteau realised that he would never get around to filming it himself. An ironic comment on the stupidity of war, the film swings from the glitter of Parisian ballrooms to the phantasmagoria of the trenches. Emmanuèlle Riva plays the Polish princess who adopts the handsome and ambiguous Thomas. Beautifully photographed, with Franju's usual eye for the extravagant image, haunting with its grey, muted landscapes it creates a feeling of having walked out of time. This is a film that does both Cocteau and Franju proud.

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