Note : this review is my participation to The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman blogathon hosted by the wonderful Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema.
Elena et les hommes aka Paris Does Strange Things (Jean Renoir, 1956)
Polish countess Elena falls in love to a French radical party's candidate, a general, in pre World War I Paris, but another officer pines for her.
This French Technicolor fresque about a time where gallantries and polite high society was manners and courtship, we follow the Polish princess Elena, a superb 41 years old Ingrid Bergman who looks like her mid twenties, as a debonair woman ready for amusement and entertainment.
Bergman seems to be in her element as a princess in a Renoir world of Paris and high society. She shines on the screen and her presence is elegant, naive, sexy, and lovable. It was her first film after her departure from her husband Roberto Rossellini and we see her as a new woman. She seems liberated and despite having been broken from this relationship she is still a star and the camera simply loved her.
Elena and Her Men, is not Bergman’s one-woman show despite the presence of Jean Marais and Mel Ferrer. It is a Jean Renoir film and another vignette of his Paris and his France. His films are a visual storytelling of his land and the way people lived and were during his child life. Most of Renoir’s stories are influenced by his childhood in Paris and his later films were his reconnection with his motherland. However, it was not his best depiction of the nostalgia of a memory and the story seems to be too much centered on Bergman’s character and not enough on the politics of France and the implications it could have done.
The story and its treatment is too light for us to really care for the issue of anything but Elena. While Renoir’s most celebrated films had the lenght and depth to reach for greatness, Elena and Her Men is a nice little love story on a political back drop.
As a huge fan of Jean Renoir and Ingrid Bergman I would suggest to give it at least a watch because both were at turning points of their career having already legendary credits they have had superb careers. For classic film lovers, Elena and Her Men is a delight and may not be a great film but a nice Technicolor eye candy.