Mademoiselle ange (Geza Radvanyi, France/Germany, 1960)

mademoiselle ange

A supernatural love story. Romy Schneider plays Line, an airline stewardess hopelessly in love with Pierre Chaillot (Henri Vidal), a rich race-car driver who’s about to marry a heartless princess, Augusta de Munchenberg (Michèle Mercier). The princess leaves the race-car driver to helicopter off with an Italian popstar and Line’s guardian angel takes on her form to make Pierre fall in love with her instead.

It’s a trifle that begins as a madcap Runaway Bride and ends with a runway groom, and not a very good one at that. Why see films from 60 years ago that were not very good then and worse now? Well firstly it’s interesting to see what were considered cinematic attractions then: colour of course, the Riviera setting, the café society life of popstars and princesses, cars and car races, helicopter and airline travel, the glamourising of advertising — all signifiers of modernity, image culture, speed, the high life — and of course the wondrous Romy Schneider, rather bland here but extraordinarily beautiful and given a marvellous moment of transformation when she appears as Pierre’s guardian angel in Line’s body as he’s about to commit suicide over Augusta (see below):

 

Romy is the star of the film but the perspective is still that of a relay of male looks, and crude ones at that, as we can see below:

 

If Romy is figuratively crudely undressed via her advertising dummy, the film also puts on display — in a more coy and more dignified way — the body of a very young and very sexy Jean-Paul Belmondo, full of energy and a bit over the top as Pierre Chaillot’s sidekick:

So a film for fans of Romy and Belmondo, a reminder that Europe once had a transnational commercial cinema that offered plenty of attractions, an example of the ideologies at work in the construction of aspirations in modern mid-century Europe where the aristocracy and organised religion were on the wane but still carried weight, a nicely distracting trifle.

Screenshot 2020-03-22 at 11.32.34

José Arroyo

 

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