The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic  |   Release Date - Oct 12, 1969 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 142 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Craig Butler

The Jean Giraudoux play upon which The Madwoman of Chaillot is based would be difficult to translate effectively to the screen under any circumstances; it is a strange and didactic but beguiling blend of whimsy, symbolism and fantasy, wrapped up in a delicate and fragile package. Still, writer Edward Anhalt and director Bryan Forbes could have come up with a more imaginative, lively and entertaining adaptation for the screen. Visually, Madwoman is an exquisite feast, from the marvelously ornate and off-beat costumes for the title character to the sumptuous Parisian settings to the gorgeous cinematography of Claude Renoir and Burnett Guffey, and it is the visuals that carry much of the film. Forbes seems to be somewhat at sea here, framing some scenes beautifully but not having any real idea of how to make the material take flight and soar. With few exceptions, his high-powered cast seems lost as to how to play the material, with the result that most of them turn in work that is much too heavy. Katharine Hepburn comes off poorly, never really making the character ring true, and all of the actors playing villains are stereotypical and arch. Richard Chamberlain is adequate, and Giuletta Masina has one or two good moments, but only Danny Kaye manages to find the right combination of charm and seriousness that the production demands.