An utterly charming little comedy, Les Belles de Nuit is a fine example of just how entertaining a piece of pure whimsy can be. Director/writer René Clair has produced a lovely film that is endlessly inventive, and filled with a joyousness that is contagious. That it exudes such a joyous feeling is odd, considering how unhappy its protagonist is; but somehow, Clair makes the audience feel happy even in the midst of the lead's melancholy. That he does this without dampening the viewer's sympathy with the character makes the feat even more remarkable. Clair clearly has a very enjoyable field day with Belles, reveling in the opportunity to jump freely from one time period to another, often doing so in a way that is visually delightful. The director also engages his fondness for sound as a major ingredient in film, utilizing both music and sound effects in a manner that adds significantly to Belles' success -- most obviously in the symphony's descent into chaos. The director is immeasurably aided by an excellent cast, including a tempting Gina Lollobrigida, a lovely Martine Carol, and a wonderfully appealing Magali Vendeuil. But it is star Gérard Philipe who deserves the highest acting accolades, turning in a deft comic performance that is totally charming and solidly anchoring a film which could easily fly too far off in its flights of fancy.
by Craig Butler review