Clip from the film

Pierre – the main character of the film is a rare type of a screen hero. He is a scholar – his thinking and sensitivity belong to the area of humanistic sciences (the liberal arts). Commercial (entertaining) movies (the most of cinematic artifacts), on the other hand, are designed as pop-goods and oriented on typical tastes nurtured in people by consumerist culture and formed by human desire to get from the moving images instant gratification. Mass movies are based on the characters which are similar with the majority of the viewers/consumers who need to see on the screen first – themselves, and second – as psychologically embellished, although not in too obvious way (they need to think of themselves as the good guys and they like to feel upright indignation and righteous hate for the bad ones).

It is not surprising that Pierre (Jean Desailly), with all his years of experience, successful career and intellectual confidence, fell – not for a young and pretty stewardess (Francoise Dorleac), although Nicole is “young and pretty”, but for her “soul’s soft skin” – a combination of words which will not make much sense for many people. The best they could do it’s to think that they’re either dealing here with science fiction or comedy. With Nicole all Pierre’s views on love were shaken. But what Pierre didn’t consider is that he was part of a mighty, despotic and ideologically jealous social institution named marriage. No, marriage is not an obstacle for having affairs with pretty stewardesses and in our liberal times it can be easily exchanged for divorce settlements, compromise constructions of marital relationships, naked money, etc. But Pierre’s wife Franca who is his peer and friend and the mother of their daughter, was able to understand the irresistibility of Nicole as an “existential metaphor” of human soul’s “soft skin”, and in her jealousy, instead of focusing on the obvious – on her husband’s amorous choice’s youthfulness and beauty, she turned to the absolute – ontological rivalry with Nicole.

Franca became the protector of the social institution of marriage and “wedlock love”, (which both became in her eyes monumental and sacred), and the poor soft skinned soul, Nicole – became in Franca’s mind a talisman of the devil. At this point Truffaut’s narrative is transformed into a detective story.

“The Soft Skin” is a film about how existential spirituality can assert itself inside the very eroticism, and how creative human love can be.

But the detective resolution of the narration is problematized or even undermined by the exceptional symbolism of “soft skin”, which makes the film to transcend itself. Even with its Hitchcockian overtones “The Soft Skin” is, unexpectedly, the most (existentially) spiritual of Francois Truffaut‘s films.


Punishment for marital and amorous betrayal

Posted on 10/20/’16 – Francois Truffaut’s “The Soft Skin” (1964) – Marriage As A Mutually Appropriated Human Relationship VS “Soft Skin” Of The Human Soul by Acting-Out Politics