Characteristically, Franju's adaptation of a story by Boileau-Narcejac (the creators of Vertigo and Les Diaboliques) negates suspense in favour of a highly pleasurable succession of strange images. An eccentric château-owner (Brasseur) dies, peacefully encased with his favourite wind-up miniature ballerina behind a mirror. With his body unaccounted for, the greedy heirs are legally obliged to wait five years, and devise a son-et-lumière to raise funds for the upkeep of the expensive château. Meanwhile, a murderer in their midst begins eliminating future rivals... Franju creates some wonderfully atmospheric monochrome textures, extracts another haunting score from Maurice Jarre, and throws in plenty of absurd humour, as well as a typically fetishistic line-up of doll-like women. The actors are encouraged into striking attitudes, so that emotional conviction is sacrificed for surreal effect. With its unconventional blend of narrative pulp and visual sophistication, the film was a commercial flop, rarely to be seen outside France, until eventually the rediscovery of the original negative gave it a new lease of life.
Cast and crew
Thomas Narcejac, Georges Franju, Pierre Boileau