Friday, August 17, 2012

Marie-Hélène Breillat

So, I think it's time I tackled the films - and the availability of the films - of Marie-Hélène Breillat. Catherine's sister. I'm motivated by the upcoming (October 3) DVD debut of a complete 4-disc set of the TV miniseries Claudine, based on the series of novels by early 19th century French novelist Colette. Don't get too excited, though - the DVD set is only being released in France with no English language options. But Marie had the starring, titular role of Claudine; that's her on the box.

Now, Marie has been featured in several of her sister's films; and so of course, you can already find those covered on this blog. This post briefly touches on Claudine, as well as covers Le Dialogue dans le marécage, Dracula & Son and Last Tango In Paris, the last two of which she has small roles alongside her sister. And of course she plays a starring role in Catherine's Nocturnal Uproar, and did some uncredited voice work on A Real Young Girl. ...Some of those films have multiple posts, so check the sidebar to find even more on them.

But now let's look at all of the films I've never tackled because Catherine Breillat didn't happen to work on them.

Marie had a pretty major role in a 1972 mini-series called L'homme qui revient de loin (The Man Who Returns from Afar), based on the 1916 novel by Gaston Leroux (Phantom Of the Opera). This was released in a nice 2-disc set in France, but alas... no English language options.

And rolling with the disappointments (unless you speak French), here's another one with no English subs or dubs, L'affaire Lourdes. This is one of Marie's earliest roles: a TV movie from 1967, based on the life of a 19th century saint named Bernadette Soubirous, who had visions of the Virgin Mary. Her only earlier appearance was in an episode of the French series Allô police, which isn't even available on DVD in France.

In 1974, she had a smaller role in the mystery thriller, Les Suspects, about an American tourist found murdered in the streets of France, starring Mimsy Farmer.  Yes, it was released on DVD only in France, and no, it has no English language options... but this one was at least released on VHS here in the US from Simitar Video (dubbed, I believe) if you're up to tracking that down.

In 1979, she co-starred in the French television adaptation of Stefan Zweig's novel, La pitié dangereuse, about a soldier who visits a rich man's paralyzed woman out of pity, but can't return her affections when she falls hopelessly in love with him. This Seven7 DVD is full screen and, of course, has no English subtitles.

Marie had a secondary role in a controversial 1971 film called Mourir d'aimer, about the true story of Gabrielle Russier, a female teacher who fell in love with one of her high school-aged students and wound up committing suicide when the law intervened. That sounds like it would be pretty topical in the US today, but it's yet another film only released on DVD in France, with no English subtitles.

1972 saw the release of La mandarine (Sweet Deception), starring Annie Girardot (Marie has a secondary role). A British stranger arrives at a wealthy family's hotel, causing a rift between the residents. LCJ Editions issued this on DVD, in France only, with no English translation.

Hey! Here's something I bet you weren't expecting - A Marie-Hélène only released on DVD in France with no English... Oh, you were expecting it? Well, here's one more. Histoire de rire from 1976, based on the play by Armand Salacrou, about romantic mix-ups and infidelity.

So, okay, just what IS available in English?

How about Doktor Faustus, a 1982 German mini-series based, of course, on the novel by Thomas Mann? This famous tale of a composer who makes a deal with the devil was released here in the United States in 2010 by E1 Entertainment, with English subtitles. You can easily scoop it up on Amazon, rent it from Netflix, or wherever.

She also has a small (uncredited) part in Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, Fanny & Alexander. This film has been released by many DVD companies around the world, but you won't do better than The Criterion Collection's recent special edition reissue on Blu-Ray. 

And, finally, what has she acted in that doesn't appear to be available anywhere at all?

She played the lead in the light-hearted romantic comedy Oublie-moi, Mandoline (Forget Me, Mandoline), a 1976 adaptation of the 1974 book by cartoonist Jacques Faizant.

She starred in one episode of the long running (60 episodes) French series, Les amours romantiques from the mid 80's, an anthology of love stories based on classic novels (Balzac, Dumas, etc). Her episode was La dame aux camélias, based on the novel by Alexander Dumas, about a man who falls in love with a courtesan suffering from tuberculosis.

In 1974, she starred in L'ironie du sort (The Irony of Chance), based on the novel by Paul Guimard, Two stories of different possibilities happening to the same character... like the US film Sliding Doors (which came later), except it takes place during World War II.

In 1970, she starred in a Claude Feraldo comedy called Bof... Anatomie d'un livreur (Who Cares... Anatomy of a Delivery Boy). It's the story of a delivery man who decides to quit his job... much to the chagrin of his wife.

In 1973, she had a major role in Le dialogue dans le marécage, an adaptation of a collection of playlets by Marguerite Yourcenar, based on Greek mythology.

In 1970, she starred in the Jean-Claude Sée L'apocalypse, based upon the novel by Christiane Rochefort.

She played Antigone in the French TV adaptation of the Sophocles play Antigone in 1974. Are you noticing a trend here? She tends to act in very literary works.

More recently, in 1982, she appeared in the Italian TV mini-series Progetti di allegria (notice, in the 80's, she took a lot more international roles), based on the novel by Carlo Castellaneta, about a former model who's life changes when her husband wants a separation.

In 1973, she had a major role in  Le chasseur de chez Maxim's (Maxim's Porter), a French romantic comedy by Calude Vital, based on the popular play by Yves Mirande and Gustave Quinson (it's been adapted many times over many decades).

 In 1976, she was in Dîner de famille, a French TV movie directed by Michael Wyn, who directed several of her aforementioned projects, including Les Suspects, Oublie-moi, Mandoline, and L'homme qui revient de loin. It's a three-act comedy adapted from Jean Bernard-Luc.

She played Sybil in a 1977 version of Oscar Wilde's Le portrait de Dorian Gray by Pierre Boutron.

She was Juliette in a French television adaptation of Shakespeare's Mesure pour mesure (Measure for Measure) in 1971.

In 1979, she played Nina in Anton Chekov's La mouette (The Seagull) for French TV.

In 1966, she starred in a black and white French TV movie titled La forêt noire (The Black Forest), inspired by the last three years of the life of Robert Schumann.

She appeared ina single episode of a 1969 television series called  En votre âme et conscience (In Your Conscience), a TV show which reenacted court cases. To be fair, you couldn't really expect something like this to turn up on DVD, let alone translated into English.

She had a smaller role in the French TV series Le miroir 2000, based on the novel by André Maheux, about skiing (the mayor of a small resort decides to open a ski resort). You can actually find episodes of this online, albeit untranslated.

In 1974, she appeared in an episode of Histoires insolites (Unsual Stories), Her episode, Un jour comme les autres avec des cacahuètes, seems to translate to A Day Like Any Other With Peanuts, which indeed sounds unusual. Based on a short story by American horror writer Shirley Jackson (The Haunting) and directed by Edouard Molinaro.

...That's a large body of impressive work. And I think you could say pretty seriously under-represented on DVD, especially outside of France. I'd really love to see some of this material get translated into English some day. A lot of these films and series seem pretty compelling even outside of Marie's involvement.