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Fox Lorber presents
Two English Girls (Les Deux anglaises et le continent) (1971)

"To choose between two things you must know both. I can't choose vice or virtue knowing only virtue."
- Muriel Brown (Stacey Tendeter)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: July 11, 2002

Stars: Jean Pierre Leaud, Kika Markham, Stacey Tendeter
Other Stars: Sylvia Marriott, Marie Mansart, Philippe Léotard, Irène Tunc
Director: François Truffaut

Manufacturer: Nimbus
MPAA Rating: R for (brief nudity)
Run Time: 02h:08m:15s
Release Date: June 01, 1999
UPC: 720917507620
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B-B+ D+

DVD Review

"Last night, I relived our story in detail. Some day I'll write a book about it. Muriel thinks our difficulties might help others." - Claude Roc

Deux anglaises et le continent (Two English Girls and the Continent), published in 1956, was the second of Henri Pierre Roché's autobiographical novels François Truffaut adapted to the screen. Well into his seventies when he wrote the book, Roché based the story on his memories and diaries along with correspondence and journals from the two women he had been involved with between 1899 and 1914. The love triangle presented in the story (a mirror of the director's first Roché adaptation, Jules and Jim) held a fascination for Truffaut, who finally brought it to life in 1971. Two English Girls casts Jean-Pierre Léaud in one of his few roles for Truffaut outside the character of Antoine Doinel, who he portrayed in five of the director's films.

Léaud stars as Claude Roc, a Parisian, who meets Anne Brown (Kika Markham), an attractive and outgoing young English girl, the daughter of his mother's childhood friend, while she is visiting Paris. As a gesture of friendship, she invites the boy to visit her family's home for the summer. Upon his arrival in Wales, Claude soon realizes that the invitation was a ploy by Anne to set him up with her sister Muriel (Stacey Tenderton), a shy and repressed girl. At first he resists the idea, but through the course of the season finds himself believing he is falling in love with her, which culminates in an awkward proposal of marriage. She declines at first, but in a typically young and indecisive way, finally agrees, only to have her family reject the notion, in accord with Claude's mother. The parents decide that instead, the two should part for a year, after which time, if their love for each other remains, they will be free to marry with both family's blessings.

Claude returns to the continent where his affections for Muriel dispatch with time. He seeks out the company of other women to explore and develop his sexuality. Meanwhile, in his absence, Muriel finds herself growing more attached to the idea of her lost love, creating romantic notions of his devotion to her. When Claude finally lets it be known that he no longer intends to marry her, Muriel is crushed by the news. In an interesting turn of events, Claude meets Anne on the mainland where she has come to study, and the two launch into a torrid affair. As Claude finds himself drawn to Anne, she in turn becomes fickle in her affections, enjoying her newly discovered sexual freedom and power. Through the course of the remainder of the film, the complications of this love triangle continue to mount, as each of its participants comes to terms with their own failings, and of those around them.

The characters are victims of their own free will, their youth presenting options they haven't the experience to fully comprehend the repercussions of. This leads to a series of ill-fated and irrational decisions, which in the spur of the moment seem to hold a worthy reward, but in hindsight are dangerous and often hurtful folly. Each tries to reconcile their feelings through instinctively reactive means, guarding against their own insecurities, but at the same time exposing the others to jealousy, rejection or abandonment. Their innocence is both their saving grace and their downfall, as seemingly simple courses of action build an emotional web that grows increasingly complex. Underlying the fabric of their relationships is a vapid commitment to each other, as the guarded nature of their entanglement seals its fatality. The observation is neutral, allowing the audience to seek its own judgments on their characters.

Truffaut captures this period of youth with delicacy and a keen eye for subtlety. It plays in a somewhat inexplicable fashion in places, but settles in to the consciousness like fragments of memory, more congealed in the afterglow than on a moment by moment basis. Nestor Almendros' cinematography is both beautiful and reserved, garnishing the dialogue with a rich ambience, but never overpowering it. The principles are excellent in their portrayals, but of the three, Jean-Pierre Léaud is perhaps the least effectual with a somewhat subdued and passive performance. Both Tenderton and Markham command their scenes, sometimes with a bit of melodrama, but harness the capriciousness of young and progressive women of the early 1900s. The story unfolds with a reserved pace, and winds through the trials and tribulations of the trio while delivering pivotal and timely twists when called for. In the end Truffaut unveils the essence of young love, in its frailty, passion and reticent cruelty. This version runs its original 130 minutes, restored by Truffaut from the 108-minute theatrical cut.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Two English Girls is presented in a nonanamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Image quality is passable, but the source contains a collection of dust, a few abrupt edits, and occasional off color scenes. The transfer adds some cross coloration and visible edge enhancement, and while generally balanced well, is dark and murky at times. Colors are sometimes faded, and the look on the soft side. Unfortunately, this older transfer doesn't quite stand up to today's expectations.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is presented fairly well, but does contain source issues such as the occasional pop and some hiss. Dialogue is on the sibilant side, and tends towards harshness, especially in the voiceover.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, The Last Metro, The Woman Next Door, Confidentially Yours, Stolen Kisses, Soft Skin, Bed & Board, Love on the Run.
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Extras include a filmographies and awards section covering the principle cast and director, production credits, and trailers for other films in the François Truffaut collection: The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups), Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim), Two English Girls (Les Deux anglaises et le continent), The Last Metro (Le denier métro), The Woman Next Door (La Femme d'à côté), Confidentially Yours (Vivement dimanche!), Stolen Kisses (Bassiers volés), The Soft Skin (La Peau douce), Bed & Board (Domicile conjugal) and Love on the Run (L'Amour en fuite)

There are a scant six chapter stops for the film.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Two English Girls is a wonderful film of young love, rich in texture and brimming with sensual undercurrents. Truffaut weaves an emotional tapestry of the past, seen from the perspective of a more mature soul. In the fabric of their attempts at love lie the threads of experience each would carry forward into their futures. Not to be missed.


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