How fitting that the fourth non-new release movie that I’d see on the big screen this year would be a François Truffaut film, The Bride Wore Black (1968), just three days before Truffaut’s birthday. I didn’t have a notebook so I didn’t particularly jot down enough for a full review. But there are several thoughts I’d like to share about the film.
The Bride Wore Black revolves around a bride, Julie Kohler (Jeanne Moreau), whose husband was murdered just seconds after their wedding. It was the result of a careless accident with a rifle by five gentlemen who were staying at a hotel across the street from the church. Kohler discovers their identities, and promises to hunt them down in the interest of avenging her husband’s death.
Part of what makes this film so unique in the Truffaut canon is that it’s a thriller/suspense film. That’s hardly standard fare for the man best known for his Antoine Doinel series. But put into some context, it makes perfect sense. Just one year prior, Truffaut had published his series of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. He had Hitchcock on the brain. The Bride Wore Black is ultimately Truffaut doing his own version of a Hitchcock imitation. Quite a few of the usual Hitchcock trappings are in place. There are train scenes; sexual symbolism (albeit overt); and the score is right out of a Hitchcock film. It’s with good reason, too–the film was scored by longtime Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Hermann.
Having said that, this is still very much Truffaut’s film. The Hitchcock flourish only surrounds a movie that is Truffaut at its core. Kohler/Moreau carries a recording of Vivaldi’s Mandolin Concerto in C with her, playing it several times after she has avenged her husband’s death. Truffaut’s French New Wave editing–tiny splices of clips missing, jarring smash cuts and the like–are employed several times. The only difference is that this time, they’re used to build suspense.
One other aspect I enjoyed thoroughly is the influence it so clearly had on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. It’s impossible to miss. The film is about a bride who has been viciously wronged on her wedding day, and she seeks to avenge the act. There’s even a scene in which she pulls out a checklist with the names of the criminals and crosses off her freshest kill. EDITOR’S NOTE: After a little research, as it turns out, Tarantino claims to have never seen this movie. So, forget this paragraph. I was wrong.
It’s impossible to say that it was Truffaut’s best work. He has far too many other incredible movies to make that sort of statement. But it was still a great movie, a fascinating sight to behold–the meeting of two of cinema’s greatest minds, put to life on celluloid.