La femme d’à côté (François Truffaut, 1981)
Two ex-lovers wind up living next door to each other with their respective spouses. Forbidden passions ensue.
In Grenobles, France, Bernard (Gérard Depardieu) lives a happy life with his wife Arlette (Michèle Baumgartner) and son Thomas (Olivier Becquaert) until one day new neighbors come to inhabit the house next to theirs. Philippe (Henri Garcin) and Mathilde (Fanny Ardant), are a newly married couple and we soon discover that Bernard and Mathilde were lovers many years ago.
François Truffaut was a man of Cinema, he was in love with it and he was in love with telling stories about men who are in love. Much like Alfred Hitchcock, Truffaut was in a way living through his films, at the time he made The Woman Next Door, he was in couple with Fanny Ardant and just the way he shoots her in his film we know he loved her to death. All of his films are about men who are passionately in love with women.
With the simple story of The Woman Next Door, we kind of felt that the story was about the ultimate love story of a couple that was together but they were too intense and too dangerous for each other to be even close to one another. In a way, they are rejecting each other all along the film. This is an intoxicating relationship and both lovers can’t live without the love of the other lover but knows it is not good for themselves respectively.
Truffaut’s films are a testimony of his love for films but also to women. They are simply told with effective but simple storytelling techniques. Anecdotes are sparsed here and there about classic films like one about Tod Browning’s The Unknown. Often under appreciated, The Woman Next Door might be one of my favorite film from the director. The cinematography by William Lubtchansky is beautiful and intimist. I like the opening and closing shots following the ambulance. The whole movie, even if widely inspired by American films, has a totally European breath that the suburban France brought as the context of the reunion of the two lovers but also as the unfolding of their story.
To me, La femme d’à côté is another Truffaut film at his best and I wouldn’t be able to really rank it since I am a huge fan of his movies. Nonetheless, it is near his greatest achievements without being as influential or as groundbreaking as Les 400 coups and Jules et Jim. Clearly, a five star film.