Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
The Bride Wore Black is what is generally described as Francois Truffauts homage to Alfred Hitchcock. This would suggest that this film would be a terrifying or suspenseful thriller, possibly. Well, the film does contain a plot that could be described as that of a thriller. It does contain murder, and suspense. But, after watching it, I went on a lark and considered this to be closer to a black comedy than a thriller. But then again, Hitchcock was a pretty funny fellow as well (Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Psycho are many things, and one of them is dark humor, absolutely), so I suppose a film like this would suit him quite nicely.
A woman (Jeanne Moreau) is distraught over something. She nearly jumps out the window before her mother literally stops her from slipping out. She is then seen piling a large amount of cash, before taking a trip.. but this is no ordinary trip, as we shall soon see.
She goes to a hotel, and acts mysteriously toward the hotel clerk, even as she asks for a particular man. Soon, she does find the man at a party, and behaves quirkily as she and him talk on the balcony. She deliberately tosses her scarf off, and lets it hang on a branch. Silly man that he is, he risks going on the ledge to rescue the garment. The woman then says who she really is... and pushes him to his death.
She is able to get away, as nobody alive has a clue who this person is, and, in any case, never even directly witnessed the crime. She then finds another victim, this time a man who seems to have bad luck with women. She is able to take him to his apartment, and poison him.
It is that this point where we figure out exactly what is going on. She is killing the men who killed her husband, at their own wedding. We see, in numerous flashbacks, the bizarre event. The couple exit the church with family and friends, and are standing in the front steps, when a shot rings out, and a bullet strikes the new husband dead. (This scenario might seem a bit creepy in light of the Washington sniper attacks, since this seems both so random and so precise) She plans on killing each and every one of the five people responsible, because it will, at the very least, avenge his death, and the death of her happiness. She is able to do this, because she tricks all the men into accepting her into their lives, usually by claiming to be someone else, or by playing to whatever weaknesses these men have. (It also helps that none of them actually know who she is, until its too late)
The homage to Hitchcock is quite apparent solely on one element --- the score is by Bernard Herrman, who also scored Rear Window, Psycho, North by Northwest and many other Hitch classics. At first, the score is almost overbearing, as if telling us that, yes, this is a Hitchcock homage! But after a while, the story settles down, and what we get is an interesting twist on the killer format. As with Hitchcock, Truffaut also shows us a somewhat morally ambiguous situation. Yes, the heroine kills people, but the reason she does this is because those people had a hand in the killing of her husband, and, thereby, destroying her happiness forever. She is not out to kill people who are totally blameless, and the fact is that her Mr. Right was killed, meaning that she could no longer be as happy as she was before Yet....... (SPOILER ALERT) .... it turns out that the motivations of the men arent exactly as clear-cut as would seem obvious. One of the men gives us his version of the story, and the event is just as shocking and as wacky as the event out on the church steps. These facts suggest that the killing was an accident. So in fact the men are not as guilty as we first thought.
Or.... maybe the men are guilty! I thought about that for a second, and realized that the men depicted in this movie arent exactly perfect folk. And thats where the whole black comedy comes in, for me. Every guy is this movie is seen as, well, a bit of a tool. Theres a lot of little laughs in this picture, when we see how silly, and egotistical, these people behave. The funniest part is when the politician tells the woman, whom he thinks is his sons teacher, that power makes women fall for him -- he says that he could imagine a woman saying, He could have had France, but he had me! The other men are pretty amusing remarks on male attitudes -- the second guy, dead by poisoning, is the sort of guy who has no luck with women. He later tries to act self-pitying by saying: I can count on one, no, two hands, how many women Ive had..... The first guy says to his friend that perhaps this mystery woman could be his last night of bachelorhood, before he gets married. The fourth guy isnt developed as much, but is a lout of a man, working at a junk yard. And the fifth man, an artist, falls for the woman; he hires her as a model, and desires to use her as a prototype for his rendering of Diana the Huntress, a virginal mythical character. This romantic fool is obsessed enough to paint a nude version of our heroine on the wall of his apartment.
The implication seems to be that these men, imperfect models of masculinity, have destroyed the one person who, in the womans eyes, actually was the perfect man, and that, just by virtue of the fools that they are, deserve to be stopped. Thats what I got out of it anyway.
The movie itself is quite entertaining. The buildup to the assorted facts and surprises are well done, as we are able to discover things just as the characters do. As well, the film has a subtle, sly, but genuine humor... if you do have a nasty streak, I think that you will find yourself grinning a few times.
I also admired how this film went all the way with its premise. Theres no sappy moments, theres never a moment when the woman second-guesses her plan, and... well, I wont reveal the ending, but Ill just say that this woman will go to any length to fulfill her plan -- and I mean any length. The Bride Wore Black may not be what many people think of when they think of Truffaut (most famous for films like The 400 Blows and The Wild Child), but it is definitely an entertaining thriller.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV