Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France
During the Nazi Occupation, French director Claude Autant-Lara reeled off a series of box-office hits that struck a chord with audiences eager for a romantic escape from desperate times. He extended his commercial success through the post-war years, but then suddenly found himself under attack from an unexpected source.

Francois Truffaut's now-famous 1954 critique of “A Certain Tendency” in French cinema primarily targeted screenwriters Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost for their staid literary adaptations, but since they wrote many of Autant-Lara's most successful films (including all the films in this set) the director took heavy collateral damage and increasingly found his work marginalized as an exemplar of the dreaded “tradition of quality.” This new four-film box set from Eclipse suggests that the scorn was mostly unwarranted, and that a concerted critical effort at latter-day redemption is equally unnecessary.

Each film in the Claude Autant-Lara: Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France Eclipse series stars actress Odette Joyeux; in three of them she plays ingenues. With her large eyes and the posture Joyeux assumes in these roles, the actress, in her mid-twenties at the time, is almost believable as a teenager.

She plays the title role in "Le Mariage de Chiffon" of a sixteen-year-old courted by a much older colonel (Andre Luguet, Paris Blues), who is enchanted by her lack of guile. Chiffon doesn’t deflect his attentions; marriage to him would bring money for her favorite “uncle,” an inventor.

"Douce" is the lone drama of the four. Douce (Joyeux) is a spoiled teen infatuated with her grandmother’s handsome steward, Mr. Marini (Roger Pigaut). Douce’s governess Irene (Madeleine Robinson, Camille Claudel) has a contrasting storyline, torn between her ne’er-do-well ex-boyfriend and temptation of a loveless marriage with Douce’s rich papa (Jean Debucourt, Mayerling).

Fantastical "Sylvie et le Fantome" pairs Joyeux as a modern-day teenage romantic — the actress was in her thirties at this point — with a ghost played by Jacques Tati (in a silent feature film debut). Sylvie’s family lives in a haunted castle with secret passageways and a few random men drop by for a birthday party scheme.

Romantic comedy "Lettres D’Amour" is the best of the bunch. Here, Joyeux actually gets to play a character her own age: young widow Zelie, who runs a business in a rural French town. Zelie is enchanting and honest, acting as a go-between for her married friend and her paramour even if it may get her into trouble.

4 x DVD9 | NTSC 4:3 | 419 minutes | 22.8 Gb + 3% rec
Language: Francais
Subtitles: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Fantasy

Download Eclipse Series 45: Claude Autant-Lara Four Romantic Escapes from Occupied France: Lettres d'amour (1942), Le mariage de Chiffon (1942), Douce (1943), Sylvie et le fantome (1946) 4 x DVD9 Criterion Collection: