The Tender Enemy

Boulevard comedy masks mordant social satire in this adaptation of a play by André-Paul Antoine. Ophuls, master of the flashback, here has the past visit the present in the form of three ghosts, the spirits of three men who in life were tormented by their shared “tender enemy,” Annette Dupont (Simone Berriau). One ghost was her girlhood sweetheart, another her husband, the third, her lover, each a victim of Annette's despair at a forced marriage. In life, they were kept ignorant of each other's existence, but disembodied, they are comrades in arms. Their visit is timed to coincide with the party Annette is giving as she forces her own daughter into a loveless union; by clever trickery they hope to avoid a second tragedy. Amid the comedy, the stylized sets, and a flirtation with the supernatural, Ophuls offers an icy picture of how the female is formed into an “enemy” by repression and double standards.

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