Story of Adele H., The (Histoire d'Adele H., L') (France, 1975) *** 1/2
Director, Francois Truffaut. Writers, Jan Dawson, Jean Gruault, Frances Vernon Guille, Suzanne Schiffman, Francois Truffaut, from Adele Hugo's Diary. Photography, Nestor Almendros. Editing, Martine Barraque,Yan Dedet, Jean Gargogne. Production design, Jean-Pierre Kohut. Music,Maurice Jaubert. Producers, Marcel Berbert, Claude Miller. Cast: Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Robinson, Sylvia Marriott, et al. 96 minutes. Color. Subtitled.
Truffaut's touching triumph in casting Isabelle Adjani as the daughter of the literary giant Victor Hugo. She abandons everything to follow everywhere a young officer who is indifferent to her --but she loves him madly as well as literally so, to the point of true madness. The balance between historical picturesqueness and fictionalism, between pathos and lightness, sober cinematography (Nestor Almendros) and symbolic color, is handled with superb restraint, a total lack of cheap dramatics, a true understanding of a woman who is not easy to comprehend and explain.
In a sense this is a portrait of a stalker, but one who has nothing in common with the garden variety of such persons. Hers is a historically true, touching fixation. Whether unique or not in real life, it is unique in the history of cinema so far as I know.
Isabelle Adjani, about 20 when the film was made, had been in a half-dozen movies and TV films since for a half-dozen years, but this work is what really launched her and made her a star. In Europe she is a household name. Not so however in the U.S.A, even though some audiences are familiar with imports such as Polanski's "The Tenant," Techine's "The Bronte Sisters.," Herzog's "Nosferatu," Chereau's long "Queen Margot," Besson's "Subway," or Nuytten's "Camille Claudel." ." It did not help that her American movies "Ishtar" and "Diabolique" were thumbs down items.