The Lacemaker (1977)

 The role of responsibility in love.

In the French film The Lacemaker, Isabelle Huppert plays the role of Pomme–an innocent 18-year-old Parisienne hairdresser. After Pomme’s adventurous work mate, Marylene is dumped by her married lover, Pomme and Marylene go on holiday to Normandy together. Marylene promptly meets another man, and Pomme is left to her own devices. One day, Pomme meets Francois (Yves Beneyton), a young male literature student. Pomme is quiet, unassuming, sincere, and docile. Francois–a snotty stick insect-finds her very approachable, and her lack of experience emboldens him.

Upon returning to Paris, Francois and Pomme extend their summer romance into everyday life. The relationship between Pomme and Francois is based on a chance summer meeting, but back in Paris, it becomes increasingly obvious that vast gaps in education and class create an abyss between the lovers. He wants friends and family to approve of Pomme, and he eagerly seeks their approval. Some of the very best scenes occur as Francois tries to gauge approval from his friends, and a trip to the family mansion underscores the discontent Francois feels but won’t acknowledge.

Isabelle Huppert was only 22 when she snared this role. In some scenes, she looks as awkward and as unfinished as a 13-year-old, but for other scenes, she appears to be in her 30s. In the beginning of the film, the simple joy she finds in devouring an ice cream cone is delightfully sincere, and although Pomme has no emotional outbursts, Huppert’s facial expressions and body language alone are superb. The Lacemaker isn’t my favourite Huppert film, and Pomme isn’t her greatest role, but it is a very good example of her acting ability. Joy and despondency are portrayed equally with quiet simplicity. For fans of Huppert’s, this film really should be seen. Many of Huppert’s later roles encompass much bolder behaviour (The Piano Teacher, and The School of Flesh for example), but The Lacemaker shows Huppert acting her heart out in the role of a subdued, sensitive 18-year-old. If you can get your hands on a copy of this film, it’s definitely worth watching. Directed by Claude Goretta.

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Filed under France, Isabelle Huppert

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