Cast & Crew
The schoolmistress of a remote French farming village is a seemingly prim and introverted young spinster. Beneath her calm exterior, however, Mademoiselle is filled with suppressed sexual desires that erupt into secret acts of violence and wanton destruction. Opening floodgates to drown farm stock, setting fire to barns and homes, poisoning animals' drinking water, and smashing the nests of field birds, she takes perverse carnal pleasure in the havoc she causes. The outraged villagers, needing someone to blame for the series of disasters, turn against a lusty woodcutter, Manou, who has recently moved into the community as the leader of an Italian work crew. A widower whose 15-year-old son, Bruno, attends Mademoiselle's classes, Manou is resented by the local men because of the animal magnetism he exerts over women, a magnetism he exploits to the fullest. One day, the schoolmistress, incensed by Manou's indifference to her, lures him into a field and seduces him by crawling on her stomach and licking his hands and boots like a dog. Afterwards she returns to the village, her clothing torn and splattered with mud, and flatly states that Manou raped her. The mounting anger of the village men now bursts into frenzy, and they seek Manou out and stone him to death. Her passions momentarily sated, the schoolmistress accepts the sympathy of her neighbors, packs her few belongings, and leaves the village. Bruno alone knows her secret and the part she played in his father's death.
Christian De Chalonges
The unnamed "Mademoiselle" is a strange and unknowable schoolteacher, who secretly creates havoc in her village by setting fires, opening floodgates, poisoning water troughs and killing animals, all without any clear reason. Everyone blames an innocent Italian woodcutter named Manou (Ettore Manni, cast when Marlon Brando turned the role down), who has been making the sexual rounds of the women in the village. Mademoiselle is not immune to Manou's charms and flirts with him in the woods, although at first he is not interested. This attraction culminates in a passionate night and has fatal consequences when the villagers take matters into their own hands. Also in the cast are Keith Skinner, Umberto Orsini, Jane Beretta, and Georges Aubert.
Mademoiselle was produced by Woodfall Film Productions and shot on location in France in the village of Le Rat. Richardson became besotted with Moreau from their first meeting, which disturbed his wife, actress Vanessa Redgrave, who told her sister-in-law, "Tony came back literally elated. It frightens me because I recognize that feeling. I've felt it myself. She must be extraordinary; Tony seemed transformed, set alight." Her suspicions were valid; the marriage began to fall apart during production when Richardson and Moreau had a brief affair, even though he and Redgrave had rented a house in France to be with their young daughters. To add to the tension, Moreau would come to their home for dinner, where the chef would whip up special meals because he also had a crush on Moreau. The Richardson's marriage would not survive and they divorced in 1967.
Mademoiselle earned universally scathing reviews on its release from critics like Roger Ebert, who began his with, "Let's have a contest, gang. The one who finds the most Freudian symbols in Tony Richardson's Mademoiselle wins the Norman Vincent Peale book of his choice. I'll give you a few to get your list started: There are 19 shots of a lake. Lakes stand for women. Sometimes it is stormy, sometimes it is covered with raindrops, sometimes it is calm. Every time you see Jeanne Moreau, she is like the lake. Stormy, covered with raindrops, calm. [...] The seduction scene lasts from about 4 p.m. until noon the next day. Miss Moreau and the lumberjack run through the fields and the forest and around the lake, and about midnight it starts to rain. Then it gets muddy. They slosh through the mud, carrying on their carefree lovers' dance. Slosh, slosh, slosh, I hear the lovers dancing." Bosley Crowther in The New York Times found the premise of Jeanne Moreau, an overtly sexy woman portrayed as sexually repressed "phony. [...] One can only suspect that Mr. Richardson and probably Mr. Genêt were out to denigrate and castigate a woman as much as they could in this film. For there is absolutely no redeeming quality in the spectacularly vicious female here."
Richardson would later say that the French had "attacked" him at Cannes for "tackling a 'French' subject. It is a film I'm proud of, though at the time I was destroyed by the violence of its reception." Despite the bad blood, Richardson was nominated for a Palme d'Or award at the Festival. The film would go on to win a BAFTA Film Award for Best British Costume (B/W) for designer Jocelyn Rickards, and cinematographer David Watkin was nominated for Best British Cinematography (B/W).
Callahan, Dan Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave ¬
Crowther, Bosley "Screen: Fiendish Female: Mademoiselle' Begins Engagement at Plaza" The New York Times 2 Aug 66
Ebert, Roger "Mademoiselle" The Chicago Sun-Times 30 Nov 67
The Internet Movie Database
Pauly, Rebecca, with Welsh, James M. and Tibbetts, John C. The Cinema of Tony Richardson: Essays and Interviews
Stafford, Jeff "Mademoiselle, The Belle From Hell" 27 Dec 08. http://streamline.filmstruck.com/2008/12/27/mademoiselle-the-belle-from-hell/
By Lorraine LoBianco
Filmed on location in France. Opened in Paris in June 1966; running time: 100 min; released in Great Britain in January 1967; running time: 103 min. The working title of this film is Summer Fires.
Released in United States 1965
Released in United States 1994
Released in United States February 2000
Released in United States May 1966
Released in United States October 1999
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (special screening) February 9-20, 2000.
Shown at Cannes Film Festival May 1966.
Shown at Hamptons International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 20-24, 1999.
Shown at MOMA (Jeanne Moreau: Nouvelle Vague and Beyond) in New York City February 18 - March 25, 1994.
Began shooting July 1965.
Completed shooting August 1965.
Released in United States 1965
Released in United States October 1999 (Shown at Hamptons International Film Festival (World Cinema) October 20-24, 1999.)
Released in United States 1994 (Shown at MOMA (Jeanne Moreau: Nouvelle Vague and Beyond) in New York City February 18 - March 25, 1994.)
Released in United States February 2000 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (special screening) February 9-20, 2000.)
Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Laughter in the Dark: Tony Richardson" August 26 - September 13, 1994.)
Released in United States May 1966 (Shown at Cannes Film Festival May 1966.)
The controversial novelist, playwright and poet Jean Genet wrote the first version of this film's screenplay in 1951 and offered it as a wedding gift to actress Anouk Aimee on the occasion of her marriage to Nico Papatakis in the summer of 1951.