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Two English Girls  
Francois Truffaut
1971 || 137 mins

At the turn of the century, Claude (Jean-Pierre Leaud) meets Anne (Kika Markham), a young English girl visiting Paris. In a gesture of friendship she invites him to visit her family home on a beautiful stretch of the Welsh coast. During the visit, Claude falls in love with Anne’s sister Muriel (Stacy Tendeter) and asks her to marry him. Claude’s mother opposes the match and a compromise is reached whereby it is agreed that the couple will stay apart from each other for a year, after which, if their love still remains, they will be free to marry with both family’s blessings. Claude returns to Paris where he has a string of affairs. After several months he writes to Muriel breaking off their relationship. Muriel affects nonchalance, but is in fact heartbroken. Anne moves to Paris to study sculpture. She and Claude begin an affair. When Muriel comes to Paris to tell Claude she still loves him, Anne tells her about the affair. Muriel returns home devastated. Claude now becomes depressed and writes a novel, Jerome and Julian, as a way of overcoming his grief. Some years later, after Anne has died of tuberculosis, Muriel passes through Calais on her way to a teaching job in Brussels. She and Claude meet up and spend a night together before parting for good.

see also articles on:
Top 10 Truffaut Movies || Francois Truffaut Profile|| French New Wave History || French New Wave Film Guide

Francois Truffaut threw himself into making Les Deux Anglaises et les continent in 1971 after the worst depression of his life following his break-up with Catherine Deneuve. Re-reading Henri-Pierre Roché’s second novel had been a rare consolation during this difficult period and Truffaut’s determination to translate the book to the screen was a major spur to his recovery.

Unsurprisingly Truffaut chose Jean Gruault, who had skilfully adapted Roché’s other novel Jules et Jim a decade previously, to write the scenerio. Gruault used both the book and Roché’s diaries for his source material. The diaries of Charlotte and Emily Bronte were a further point of reference. Anne’s dying words “My mouth is full of earth” are taken from Emily Bronte. Much of the book’s Belle Epoque period detail was discarded in order to focus on the feelings that bind Claude, Anne, and Muriel. “This isn’t a film about physical love, but a physical film about love,” the director explained. “It is a romantic story that I wanted to make novelistic.” His devotion to the story’s literary origins is further highlighted in the use of narrative voice over, read by Truffaut himself, and taken directly from the novel.

Filming began on April 28, 1971 on a private estate on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, a location chosen to substitute for the Welsh coastline and moorland where most of the action takes place. Later filming took place in Jura, the Ardèche and Paris. Truffaut was very pleased with the way the shoot had gone and felt he had made his masterpiece. He had good reason to feel confident. This was the most visually beautiful of all his films. The pastel colours and striking landscapes captured by Nestor Almendros’s camera evoked the work of the great impressionist painters, while the performances of the two young actresses playing the sisters, Anne and Muriel, were impressive, especially Tendeter, who convincingly conveys her character’s repressed desires.

Les Deux Anglaises was released in November 1971 but received mixed reviews from critics. Some felt the film was too cold and objected to its graphic physicality such as the shot of bloodstained sheets following the deflowering of Muriel. There was praise for the beautiful visuals, but also complaints that the film was too slow. This critical response and the later commercial failure of the film was a heavy blow for Truffaut. It left him feeling depressed at the public’s inability to feel sympathy for his characters and their romantic adventures.

Shortly after Les Deux Anglaises' release, Truffaut hastily cut 20 minutes from the film in an attempt to make it more commercial, but in the end this made little difference. Few projects had absorbed so much of his energy and passion with so little success. In 1984, Truffaut and his editor Martine Barraqué returned to the cutting room to produce a final restored version of the film. In the years since Truffaut’s death the film's reputation has grown in stature, with some influential voices, including Martin Scorcese, now describing it as a masterpiece.

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