La Peau Douce (1964) (aka The Soft Skin)
François Truffaut

“Don’t talk so loud, people are staring.”

The Soft SkinLa Peau Douce (1964) is perhaps François Truffaut‘s least talked about good movie. Release alongside Jacques Demy‘s big favorite Les Parapluies De Cherbourg, La Peau Douce could well be called “eclipsed” by the former. From the outside the film could be written off as a mild drama, the characters in the films have much more impact than any melodrama. At first watch, it is but natural to think of Woody Allen‘s wonderful film Match Point – An illicit affair, the secrets revealed, tensions high for protecting egos. But neither is the film as verbose or as happening as Match Point.

The screenplay of La Peau Douce is not a usual screenplay one might see. There are no sudden twists, instigating incidents or unexpected moves through most part of the film. The film is paced slowly, with a lot of emphasis on the character development, especially the central character Pierre Lachenay. Pierre is a prude middle class person who is unsuccessful in sustaining relationships primarily because of his reservedness. Professionally an author, he is attracted to a young air-hostess Nicole who he meets during a lecture in Portugal. Jean Desailly is near perfection in the portrayal of a man who is crushed under his own principles. The affair continues all the way till Paris and Pierre still is secretive about the affair to Franka, his wife. Things take a sharp turn when Franka discovers the affair. There is an expected rift in relationships divorce is decided upon. Meanwhile, Nicole is also unable to sustain the relationship and quits.

The climactic quarter hour is where the film actually changes tone and feels like a Hitchcockian suspense tale. Pierre decides to apologise to Franka, only to find that she is unavailable in house. The climax, which I am not going to give away, is much debated upon by his fans. This tale of people caught within the formalities of love and the clockwork of the world was nominated for the Palm D’or at Cannes in 1964