Mississippi Mermaid

3 out of 5 stars
Mississippi Mermaid
CATCH OF THE DAY Belmondo gets the drop on the fishy Deneuve.

“This film is dedicated to Jean Renoir,” state the opening credits of Franois Truffaut’s thriller about a tobacco-plantation owner (Belmondo) and the mail-order bride (Deneuve) who dupes, seduces and destroys him. But the great humanist of Gallic cinema isn’t the movie’s real father figure; that would be Alfred Hitchcock, whose corpulent presence hangs over every frame of the younger director’s noir-by-numbers exercise. Still buzzing from his book-length interview with the Master of Suspense published several years prior, Truffaut already had the filmmaker on the brain when he set out to adapt the crime-fiction potboiler Waltz into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich (written under the pseudonym William Irish).

As an homage, the result was indeed impressive: the pitch-perfect aping of Bernard Hermann’s score, the masterful way that Truffaut duplicates his elder’s editing tricks and the pleasure of watching Deneuve sport a hairdo that might have been stolen off of Tippi Hedren’s scalp. Try to view this tale of a siren’s song as something chewier than a cover version of Hitch’s greatest hits, however, and what’s left is a facile take on l’amour fou. That doesn’t stop the stars, arguably at the peak of their impossible gorgeousness, from generating miraculous screen heat, but a minor work is still a minor work.—David Fear

Opens Fri; BAM.

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