Le Combat dans l'île

dir. Alain Cavalier

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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This buried treasure of '60s French cinema segues from politically-charged thriller to tenderly affecting romance as a young woman (the gorgeous Romy Schneider) discovers that her jealous and abusive husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant) has become embroiled with a shadowy, right-wing paramilitary group.

Greeted as a major discovery when it recently received its American premiere at New York's Film Forum, Le Combat dans l'île proved so popular that it was immediately booked for a return engagement. In a breakthrough role, the supernal Romy Schneider — "the best actress of her generation" (Visconti) — plays a woman increasingly unsettled by the jealous outbursts and long absences of her husband, who appears to be involved with a shadowy right-wing organization (and is played in a performance of sadistic charm by Jean-Louis Trintignant, clearly preparing for his role as Bertolucci's conformist). Once stoic and fidèle, la femme finds her allegiances tested when a sweet-natured artisan (Henri Serre) enters her life. Free-wheeling in nouvelle vague fashion, and shot in silvery black and white by the great Pierre Lhomme, Combat masterfully segues from thriller to romance, from the elegant environs of Paris to the rough-hewn island refuge of the film's title, all the while suspensefully toying with our expectations. "Not to be missed! Cavalier's superbly committed and crafted thriller stars three of the most accomplished actors of European cinema-at their absolute peak here" (Elliot Stein, The Village Voice).