A lovingly literate adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's novella about a soldier (Sanders) returning from the wars without prospects, persuaded to capitalise on the good looks that seem irresistible to women, and finding it difficult to get off the roundabout even when he falls genuinely in love (with the wonderful Lansbury). Set in a stylish evocation of 19th century Paris partly based on contemporary paintings, and partly (like the London of The Picture of Dorian Gray) a vivid product of the imagination, the film fascinatingly refuses to stigmatise its hero as he becomes increasingly and tragically mired. If there is a villain, it is a society so dependent on the appearances of success that everyone in it is encouraged to adopt a facade to reap their just rewards. In a series of elliptical asides that combine into a wry comment on the non-status of the career woman at that time, Lewin even contrives to suggest that the widow of a distinguished journalist who helps Sanders on his way to success not only secretly writes his copy, but had done the same for her husband for years. A sadly neglected film.
The Private Affairs of Bel Ami
Cast and crew