4 May 2021

Jacques Doniol-Valcroze's L'Eau à la bouche (1960)

Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, one of the co-founders of Cahiers du cinéma, is also one of the half-forgotten directors associated with the Nouvelle Vague. He only directed seven films. L'Eau à la bouche is scored by the music of Serge Gainsbourg, the tune of the same name being played several times, sometimes using the words, others only the music, as with Gainsbourg's more uptempo 'Judith'. The film is perhaps representative of the new sexual freedom, with six of the main characters here pairing off.

Virtually the whole of this film is a flashback to the day before, when three people were intended to come to the their late grandmother's château where one of the granddaughters – Miléna (Françoise Brion) – has been living. The other grandchildren are Fifine (Alexandra Stewart) and Jean-Paul (Paul Guers), although just for a laugh Robert (Jacques Riberolles), Fifine's boyfriend, is pretending to be Jean-Paul, to the annoyance of Fifine who nevertheless doesn't say anything. Also present in the château are the lawyer Miguel (Gérard Barray) who has come to read the will, the sex-mad butler César (Michel Galibru) and the new maid Prudence (Bernadette Lafont), plus the all-knowing Florence (Florence Loinod), the cook's granddaughter.

As night falls César sleeps with Prudence, Fifine with Miguel and Miléna with Robert, who is denounced under his true identity by Prudence in the morning. With the coming of Jean-Paul the scene returns to the beginning and continues with Fifine greeting her brother.

All this is played out gloriously theatrically in the sumptuous fading splendour of Château d'Aubiry, Céret (Pyrénées-Orientales), where the only telltales of ruin I noticed was in the broken windows of one of Gustave Eiffel's greenhouses.

Mouth watering.

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