Therese Raquin (1953)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Film Noir, Psychological Drama  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The journalism-influenced prose of Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin is a promising fit with Marcel Carné's poetic realism and is a highlight of his postwar work. He transfers the action from 19th century Paris to present day Lyons where Thérèse Raquin (Simone Signoret emerging from self-imposed quasi-retirement) is miserably married to her sniveling mama's boy cousin Camille (Jacques Duby). Thérèse lives a dull life and her immersion into the affair with Laurent (Raf Vallone) and its fateful aftermath come in small strokes. A lifetime of repression has left her perpetually stone faced and Signoret gives an extraordinarily subtle mien to the character; she flirts with an almost imperceptible smile. Her aspirations are thwarted by Camille's mother, played by aging diva Sylvie with absolute authority and righteous fury. In a remarkable, if underutilized, plot twist a stroke leaves Madame Raquin paralyzed and Sylvie relishes the opportunity to channel all of her character's stifled energy to her eyes. The predictable thrust of the story is saved by the final act introduction of despicable, yet sympathetic Riton (Roland Le Saffre), a luckless societal outcast who the unbilled Le Saffre has act out with the manic pent-up desperation beneath all the characters. Thérèse Raquin contains elements of the then popular French crime films along with the stereotypically melodramatic elements of a pessimistic lower class lament, but with Carné's impassive eye and peculiar, fascinating performances by Signoret and Sylvie, the movie succeeds as a neorealist soap opera.