Director: Jean Becker
Screenplay: Sébastien Japrisot
Based on a Novel by: Sébastien Japrisot
Starring: Isabelle Adjani, Alain Souchon, Suzanne Flon
Running Time: 133 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
Now for the first time ever on UK Blu-ray, One Deadly Summer is a French revenge story focused around the arrival of Elle (Isabelle Adjani) to a provincial French village one hot summer. Elle makes an immediate impression on the men of the town, dressed in tight-fitting bright clothes and exuding sexual confidence. A back story unfolds of Elle’s somewhat unusual family set up, her wheelchair bound father (Michel Galabru), her introverted German mother (Maria Machado), her struggles with education, but lightning-quick mathematical mind. The opening of the film offers a quote from the children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which seems entirely apt as the film goes on to reveal a topsy turvy universe of unexpected twists and turns.
At the heart of the story is Elle’s battle to understand her past, the trauma’s experienced by her parents, and accordingly the heart of her own identity. On arriving at this small village in South of France Elle immediately immerses herself in the town’s social events, including cinema and the ‘Bing Bang’ dance with live rock and roll music every Sunday. She catches the eye of a local fireman nicknamed Pin-Pon (Alan Souchon), and after some false starts they establish a fond and romantic relationship. In these scenes, Elle further reveals her energetic and raw character, for example following the first night where she stays with Pin-Pon at his family home (he lives with his mother and three brothers in a house in the mountains) in the morning she removes her clothes and parades around the courtyard.
The film contains lots of passing shots of Elle, sultry and scantily clad. Many viewers might find this aspect to the film gratuitous and insulting to women, although I suspect the director would argue this is a means to develop understanding of the psychology of Elle’s character, someone clearly tempestuous and emotionally unstable, but none the less highly intelligent and focused in her confidence.
Many of the scenes in the film catch the ambience of a balmy french summer, whether it be the hazy setting sun over the French mountains, or the climax of the social calendar in the main town in the local area; a cycle race. The soundtrack accordingly manages to enhance this atmosphere, romantic ballads and French pop. On the surface, this is a film is light-hearted and fun, but below there is profound darkness, which is the core of the story.
Elle becomes more and more obsessed with her past, and without wanting to give away the entire plot, she wants to find out the identities of the men who raped her mother before she was born. She manages to track down the people who can tell her the whole story, and in so doing uncover many of the dark secrets of the village and local community. Further still, these developments impact on the development of her relationship with Pin-Pon. Pin-Pon is given to making cliched descriptions of Elle’s character, ‘she was too free, too wild’. Elle forms a good friendship with Pin-Pon’s hard of hearing aunt (Suzanne Elon) who evolves as a silent witness. As it progresses the film manages to jump between inner thoughts and concerns of different characters, becoming more and more complex and emotionally charged.
The film concludes in a dizzying progression of set pieces, and the overall message of the film seems to be, men will always exploit the sexual favours of an attractive woman if given the opportunity, but will they always consider the repercussions of their actions.
The film is poetic with a good portrayal of reality, tragedy and comedy. This is a decent example of an accessible and enjoyable French thriller, re-released in high definition, beautifully restored and remastered in this CultFilms special edition. Well worth a watch.
Extras on this disc include an interview with director Jean Becker (28 mins), and a documentary on the author of the original novel, screenwriter Sébastien Japrisot, known as the Graham Green of France (43 mins)
CultFilms presents One Deadly Summer on Dual Format Blu-ray & DVD 29 July 2019