The Bride Wore Black

Screening May 10 at International House Philadelphia

by Jake Lemkowitz

A newly restored 35mm print of The Bride Wore Black is screening this Thursday, May 10th, at International House’s Ibrahim Theater. 3701 Chestnut Street. 7:00 PM. $9 General Admission, $7 Students.

If stupid summer movies are our cultural comfort food, then The Bride Wore Black is the grass-fed foie gras hot dog of blockbusters. François Truffaut’s New Wave spin on the Alfred Hitchcock action-thriller model is just as ridiculous as an American summer flick should be, but with distinctively gourmet French mise en scène ingredients.

Truffaut keeps the scenario simple. Aging avant-garde stunner Jeanne Moreau plays a femme fatale with a suitcase full of weapons and incredible outfits, and a list of the men she plans to methodically hunt down and kill. The only mystery is her motive. Once we learn that, the story’s tension is stripped away, and this thriller is transformed into a dark comedy. It’s no longer a question of what will happen or why, but simply how Truffaut will take the viewer from point A to B with each witty, sensational murder. Creative violence, however, is just one of The Bride Wore Black’s many charms.

Raoul Coutard, the same Director of Photography who worked with Truffaut on 400 Blows, is a master at creating movement, focusing in on small details, and imbuing seemingly insignificant moments with heavy import. Jeanne Moreau’s costumes, and her face, are fantastic. Bernard Herrmann composed the music for practically every Hitchcock film, and his violin-pumping score for The Bride Wore Black sets off subconscious good-movie-brain-chemicals.

Is this really a good movie, though? Truffaut disowned it in later years, claiming that he didn’t know how to direct a film in color at the time. Perhaps the New Wave auteur made the mistake of taking his own work too seriously. After all, this is the same man who once honestly asked, “Is the cinema more important than life?” Of course the answer is no. But thanks to movies like The Bride Wore Black, we can always trade in the reality of life’s hot and lazy days for stylish silliness and popcorn in a dark, air conditioned room.

Jake Lemkowitz is a Brooklyn-based writer and pizza aficionado. He has an MFA from Brooklyn College, and his home on the internet is Bread City Basketball.