• Hommage Paul Vecchiali


Paul Vecchiali

Femmes Femmes deals with the passing of time; for the characters, time flies fast and out of sight. Yet time has not diminished the film’s ability to stun the viewer, and this black diamond still has no equivalent in the history of cinema. This meeting of the 1930s French melodrama with a modern approach to filmmaking, a founding act in Vecchiali’s work, has rarely been declined in such a tightly-knit dialectical exchange. Meet Hélène Surgère and Sonia Saviange, two actresses past their prime, who live in an apartment overlooking the Montparnasse cemetery, covered with film magazine cutouts, portraits of old film icons who watch the women’s daily struggle, in the staccato of the editing, as a gateway to the realm of imagination. The blond actress lives as a recluse and drinks champagne, while the brunette runs from one casting call to the next and drowns her nights, be they merry or sad, in red wine. Truths and lies, theatre and cinema, rehearsals and performances, crudeness and sophistication, documentary and fiction, the film, its narrative, its dramaturgy, its formal project evolve in a constant movement, between comedy drama and farcical tragedy. In this accumulation of unsettled frontiers, the actors’ bodies and the apartment they use as a stage are the only tangible realities, like fully fleshed figures moving through a playground that could only be likened, perhaps, to the apartment block in George Perec’s novel Life: A User’s Manual. Shopping lists, recipes and little dramas, with satellite characters who arrive untimely like gusts of wind to slam doors and interrupt the two heroines’ prosody. These intruders all bear the humiliating seal of failure: the neighbour dumped by his wife, the small business owner heading for bankruptcy, the philosophical doctor who makes a wrong diagnostic, while death is lurking. Not to forget Cocteau’s shadow: between Hélène and Sonia, there is not even a mirror to cross, one’s make-up brush paints the other’s lips, as a preliminary step to their endless ceremony. This wild film refers to the rules, only to transgress them all without exception. Like the three units that lend their names/ flags to the production company: flexible time and lengths, outings to get drinks at the local bar or to move about at the foot of the building, where people work the street as if under the canopy of some music hall. The champagne glasses are cheap and so is the alcohol, but it doesn’t matter, because the image is as sparkly as the pendeloques of a chandelier, and the film is intoxicating us madly. To make this miracle of a film that forever changed his career, Vecchiali benefited from the decisive input of Noël Simsolo, whose apparent casualness hides a formidable machine to produce truths. Mirror-like and at the right distance.


  • Hommage Paul Vecchiali
21:006 July 2023Variétés 2TICKETS

Technical sheet

France / 1974 / 115’