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Fox Lorber presents
The Soft Skin (La Peau douce) (1964)

"I don't dance. I never wanted to learn."
- Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: June 11, 2002

Stars: Jean Desailly, Françoise Dorléac, Nelly Benedetti
Other Stars: Daniel Ceccaldi, Laurence Badie, Sabine Haudepin
Director: Francois Truffaut

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes)
Run Time: 01h:57m:29s
Release Date: April 23, 2002
UPC: 720917511924
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B BB-B- C-

DVD Review

Famous literary critic Pierre Lachenay (Jean Desailly) leads an apparently happy life with an attractive wife and a charming young daughter. His career is moving forward nicely, and crowds flock to see him speak across the country. Yet the monotony of the upper-class life gnaws at him and spurs the beginnings of a mid-life crisis. He exudes few emotions towards his family and slowly moves with noticeable disinterest towards the world around him. During a speaking trip, the appearance of the young, bright-eyed Nicole Chomette (Françoise Dorléac) quickly pulls Pierre out of his slumber. Her exciting energy and carefree attitude sharply contrast with the usual monotony, and it quickly draws him into an affair. Can their relationship truly become something more than a quick fling? Considering the social and age differences, the odds are not in the unlikely duo's favor.

François Truffaut's The Soft Skin tackles the melodramatic story with visual originality and plenty of interesting moments. The renowned French director utilizes inventive shot-making to heighten the suspense that is not obviously apparent. Until the surprising finale, the events unfold slowly, but Truffaut energizes the dreary moments with his signature precision. Following his initial meeting with Nicole, Pierre spends little time agonizing over crossing the lines of his marital contract. His nervousness on the phone recalls the innocent ramblings of a young, lovesick boy, which makes their meeting surprisingly endearing. Nicole's long hair and striking eyes reduce his refined arrogance and reveal an inner longing within his heart. After a long night of conversation and fun at the hotel bar, their future appears bright. Unfortunately, the return to Paris will bring them back to reality and generate numerous obstacles to their happiness.

Pierre's marital infidelity would be more understandable without the lively presence of his daughter Sabine (Sabine Haudepin). During their few moments together, the dour man's eyes light up and reveal a softer presence. Also, his wife Franca (Nelly Benedetti) may not have Nicole's young energy, but much of her problems result from Pierre's removed nature. The family may represent the dull, mundane life that he dreads, but they both love him and could suffer considerably from his actions. The pivotal moments occur during a holiday in Reims for Pierre and Nicole that should help them to escape from the obstacles of home. Throughout their relationship, he has continually shut down his snobby tendencies and tried to enjoy himself. However, a stubborn adult man cannot change his personality, which leads to some humiliating and tense moments. This vacation also creates a rift between the couple that may cause their undoing.

The Soft Skin portrays the inadequacies of a figure too cowardly to choose any specific way of life. Jean Desailly does a remarkable job in slowly revealing Pierre's emptiness and indecision. The plot moves at a snail's pace and drags at points, but we never lose interest in this troubling man. Dorléac wonderfully portrays Nicole's adoration for Pierre even while he treats her horribly. Her final statements are emotionally distressing, but they reveal an insightful understanding that eludes his heart. Benedetti appears only briefly during much of the story, but she carries the finale with chaotic aplomb. While probably too slow for some audiences, this film paints an interesting picture of a weak gentleman. Pierre Lachenay possesses the attributes to inspire love, but he lacks the ability to choose the ultimate path of his life.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Soft Skin appears in a clear, impressive 1.66:1 widescreen transfer that showcases Truffaut's inventive camera work. The vivid, black & white picture has been improved dramatically on an overall scale and contains some remarkable images. Unfortunately, it does still include a decent amount of major defects that are difficult to ignore. These flaws probably stem from unfixable problems with the original print, but it does slightly lessen the experience. Considering the film's age, this is an acceptable transfer, but it falls slightly due to the significant defects.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: This disc utilizes a French stereo transfer that clearly presents the tense sounds of this suspenseful drama. The words spoken are easily heard, and atmospheric sounds spring nicely from the front speakers. The only noticeable problem with this track are several audio splices that cut right into the dialogue. They only last for several seconds, but they are noticeable and do cause a few problems. It is nothing drastic to hear these few quiet spots, but it does lower the grade of a decent transfer.

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 (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 (Basiers volés), Bed & Board (Domicile conjugal) and Love on the Run (L'Amour en fuite)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Production credits
  2. Awards for Francois Truffaut
Extras Review: The Soft Skin features 10 preview trailers of François Truffaut's films that should be welcome to audiences who enjoy this feature. They all appear in decent widescreen transfers, with most using the 1.66:1 format. This disc also contains the basic production credits; filmographies for Desailly, Dorléac, and Truffaut; and a listing of some of the most notable awards received by the director. Unfortunately, there are only six chapter cues, which are not very helpful for a two-hour movie.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Although not one of François Truffaut's best films, The Soft Skin still offers an interesting portrayal of an unfortunate man. The story offers few moments of pure happiness, and a cloud of impending dread hangs above each scene. However, an excellent cast and some intriguing direction keep things moving and make it a worthwhile choice.


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