Mississippi Mermaid

From the Chicago Reader (May 1, 1991). This is being released on Blu-Ray by Twilight Time. — J.R.

Francois Truffaut’s free adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s masochistically doom-ridden Waltz Into Darkness, in ‘Scope and color, yields an unsuccessful but sympathetic exploration of the filmmaker’s underrated darker side. A wealthy tobacco planter (Jean-Paul Belmondo) sends for a mail-order bride, and the mysterious lady who turns up is not the woman he was led to expect but Catherine Deneuve. Stately and languorous in its dreamy melancholy, though never entirely convincing, this 1969 picture is full of movie references — even the cabin at the end of Truffaut’s own Shoot the Piano Player figures centrally. But perhaps its ultimate justification is that of Truffaut’s other morbid films, such as The Bride Wore Black and The Green Room: a doomed romantic protagonist (in this case Belmondo) who goes the limit. In French with subtitles. 123 min. (JR)

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