LA BELLE PERSONNE (THE BEAUTIFUL PERSON)
Eight of us watched The Beautiful Person (La belle personne) tonight at the Museum of Fine Arts French Film Festival. After the end of the film, we had to be shooed out of the salle de cinéma and then the lobby because of our eagerness to discuss the film together, on the spot. Luckily, they couldn’t shoo us away from their front steps!
Only one of us was unenthusiastic. The rest of us thought the film said so much about French youth, French culture and French cinema, that we ended up talking about all those things as well as about the film itself.
The kids in that French high school sure are different from ours – or at least ours from a few years ago! Smoking still seems to be in, student-teacher sex appears not to be no a big deal in France, most kids have hooked up with at least one person of the two sexes, responsible adults seldom appear, and the elegant wardrobes of recent students – high heels, straight skirts, jackets and ties for boys – have become jeans, T-shirts, and running shoes (“les baskets,” en français) and bushy, apparently unwashed hair.
(One of the group, Deanna, said she could just smell the odor of the classroom, so evocative were the building’s atmosphere and the look of the kids.)
We agreed that the film was fundamentally about emotions – between classmates, between students and teachers, and, a little, between teachers and teachers.
The link between the contemporary high school behavior and 17th century behavior of France’s nobles in the Royal Court were ‘vraisemblable’ and well portrayed.
”La Princesse de Clèves is a French novel, regarded by many as one of the first modern European novels, and a classic of its era. Its author is generally held to be Madame de La Fayette.”
Characters in the Belle Personne have names that match those of the 17th-century model for this tale. The Princesse is thought to be a member of the French Court under Louis XIV. In the original, the ingenue heiress gets safely married to the Prince de Clèves at the beginning of the tale, and is then tempted by the dashing Duc de Nemours. There is a lot of confusion due to an unsigned letter that says that X is hopelessly in love with Y, with the identities of X and Y being only surmised. The letter in the modern version is lost on the seat of a movie theater, and passed around the class.
If you want to see it at the MFA, Friday, July 17th at 6:00 pm is the last showing. Tickets can be ordered online. Enter the Museum from the Fenway side. (The Museum entrance near the parking lot is closed due to construction).