Elena and Her Men
The Only Thing Gayer Than April in Paris is Bergman in Paris!
Set amid the military maneuvers and Quatorze Juillet carnivals of turn-of-the-century France, Jean Renoir’s delirious romantic comedy Elena and her Men (Elena et les hommes) stars a radiant Ingrid Bergman as a beautiful, but impoverished, Polish princess who drives men of all stations to fits of desperate love. When Elena elicits the fascination of a famous general, she finds herself at the center of romantic machinations and political scheming, with the hearts of several men—as well as the future of France—in her hands.
Jean Renoir & Ingrid Bergman working together... what could be more exciting for a tease synopsis?
Though this may have been edgy & occasionally uproarious in the 1950s (especially knowing the offstage story of Bergman's fall from a prudish public's standing until she re-entered respectable stardom here), most of the overtly comedic elements fail to hold up, or don't match my tastes anyway, but the smiling cleverness that pervades the final act (& into the nifty ending credits!) does tickle my smiling comedic sensibility.
Renoir continues his career-long exploration of the phasing out of aristocratic elitism in favor of populist diversity & free love.
Like LA GRANDE ILLUSION, here we have political-military royalty & even a monocled man whose societal ideals are challenged by…
Politics hinge on daisies and desires, not ethics; or so the circus seems to spin.
Elena and her Man rounds out Renoir's Stage and Spectacle Trilogy on pretty much the same note as the previous films (The Golden Coach and French Cancan): Teetering with mixed proficiency between slapstick and social commentary, and rarely finding a pleasing balance between the two. Though Bergman's charm seeps through yet another lazily wrought love triangle, her radiance seems almost misused. Renoir seems less interested in the constantly changing motives behind her advances on a famous general and a wealthy playboy (but the way she changes hands seems meant to underline the Patriotism of France versus the Power of True Love) than in his great, crowded sound stages, shot - as in French Cancan - to look like they leaped…
Elena et les hommes