“Two English Girls” successfully explores all angles of a sibling love triangle

Anne Lindsey

Francois Truffaut brings another story alive in “Two English Girls,” the next installment in the “Siblings: Resentment & Commitment” Cultural Film Series. Co-written and directed by the late, great Truffaut, this 1971 film explores a young man’s romance with two sisters over several decades.

Near the turn of the century, Frenchman Claude Roc meets two English sisters, Ann and Muriel. Although initially introduced to Ann, Claude falls in love with Muriel, creating a love triangle. Claude intends to marry Muriel; however, he does not have the approval of his mother and is forced to spend time away before he can marry her. Their separation weakens Claude’s love for Muriel, and he ends their relationship. Eventually Ann returns to the picture and embarks on an affair with Claude, unbeknownst to her sister. Eventually, both Ann and Muriel are able to release themselves from their almost-obsessive love for Claude.

Truffaut based two of his movies, “Two English Girls” and the earlier “Jules and Jim,” – on novels by Henri-Pierre Roche, and both stories involve ménage a troises. “Two English Girls” is based on Roche’s own amorous adventures from 1899 to 1914, as preserved in his 1956 novel, while Truffaut’s adaptation is based on the writer’s diaries and on writings by the two sisters themselves.

In fact, Roche’s two autobiographical novels were inspirations for Truffaut, as the filmmaker, infused his work with personal experiences as well. In yet another similarity between the two artists, Truffaut’s films are dominated with stories of obsessive love, a common theme also found in the works of Roche.

Adding more to the seemingly strong autobiographical element, the film version of “Two English Girls” employs Jean-Pierre Lecaud as Claude. Truffaut aficionadi will note that Lecaud played the director’s cinematic alter-ego, Antoine Doinel, in a series of autobiographical films, including “The 400 Blows,” “Love on the Run,” “Bed and Board” and “Stolen Kisses.” Truffaut himself does the voice-over in the film, adding the finishing touch to the perfectly constructed autobiographical film.

As the movie was not a financial success upon release, Truffaut cut 14 minutes from the running time so that exhibitors could perhaps schedule additional screenings. However, before his death in 1984, he added in the edited scenes. “The extensions reinforce the format and add a wealth of detail to its atmosphere,” according to film reviewer Doug Pratt. One of these scenes included the picnic scene, which is meant to be tribute to the filmmaker Jean Renoir (son of famous painter Auguste Renoir) and his film “A Day in the Country.”

“Two English Girls” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for students and $4 for everyone else.

The Monday evening screening will feature speaker Desmond Ryan, theatre editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ryan will both introduce the film and lead a discussion, “‘Two English Girls’: Sharing Love with Truffaut” afterward.

For further information, you can contact the communication department at x9-4570, or consult the Cultural Film Series website at www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.