Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A reader in Romania would like to know if anyone has seen or heard of a movie she once saw on late-night television but whose title she didn't catch. She believes it may be a French film -- or French-American co-production -- made after the fifties. It was definitely not a television program. The plot is quite unusual:

"In Paris, a few years after the end of World War II, a female former member of the Resistance is now a rich and successful writer (I think), and, in spite of her not being young any more, a still attractive woman. She is in love with a much younger man (an American), who also loves her passionately. (Not long after the beginning of the movie, the two lovers are on their way to an official meeting, and they have a romantic encounter in an elevator). For some time they are happy together but the woman is deeply concerned about the difference in age between them, and she wants him to love someone "better" than her, i.e. younger. He does not agree with her at all. Under such circumstances, the woman thinks of a plan: with the help of her former comrades in the Resistance, she stages her death as if in a car accident, while leaving in her will her entire fortune to him. Being now dead to everybody, she goes to a doctor, a scientist who had an experimental, risky and painful rejuvenating method, and undergoes the treatment. She becomes a young woman, bearing only a slight physical resemblance to her former appearance. (The treatment also presupposed periodical injections in the neck, to alleviate the recurring excruciating pain she experiences, and to maintain her youth.) Pretending to be a young, poor and shy translator, she makes him notice her by going to his favorite cafe. Struck by the resemblance with his lost love, he, who is inconsolable after her "death", gets acquainted and then involved with the young and - to him - dull translator. After some time, still torn by mixed feelings and almost reluctantly, he marries her. All this time, however, he is actually longing only after her, the mature one, and he is secretly spending time at her former house. Paradoxically, the now-young woman has to fight not only a shadow, the ghost of his previous love, but HER OWN shadow! There is a scene when he shouts at her something like "...look at you! You are stupid, a banal translator!.. How could you ever compare with her?... She was beautiful, she was smart and sophisticated..." Eventually, she discovers his visits at her former house... Towards the end, there is a scene in which, in that house, out of desperate love and not knowing what else to do any more, she appears to him dressed in one of her old dresses. He is outraged, yelling something like: "How dare you wear her dress??!!.." I cannot remember well what happens in the end... I think she tells him the truth and soon afterwards she dies, as a consequence of her (deliberately?) interrupting the treatment.

Also, the title of the film consisted of more than one word, one of which may have been "obsession" or something similar.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? If so, please leave a comment, or contact me via email. Many thanks!


Anonymous said...

Are you sure this wasn't a TV show? It sounds like something you might have seen on "Alfred Hitchcock" or "Thriller" in the sixties. Maybe it was on a French TV show. Wasn't there a program that dramatized stories by Roald Dahl -- could this be based on a Dahl story? Sounds like the sort of thing he did.

William said...

Yes, it does sound like Dahl, doesn't it? I thought at first that it must be a TV show, but the lady who sent the synopsis insists that it was a movie.

Anyway, thanks for the comment.

William said...

There are some plot similarities to "Return from the Ashes" and the more recent "Phoenix," both based on the same novel.