Monday, January 13, 2014

Swann in Love (1984) - Proust, Irons, and Delon

All this talk of Proust made me think of a movie I saw back in 1984. Swann in Love starring Jeremy Irons at the height of his leading man days, and screen legend Alain Delon.

Yes, I actually saw this movie in a movie theater in 1984.

This is a movie adaptation of one of the stories in Marcel Proust's novel Remembrance of Things Past.  I don't remember much about the movie since I only saw it once. I grew up watching Alain Delon movies because he was one of my mother's favorites, and I also liked Jeremy Irons. I had high expectations for this film. Only thing I remember now is being somewhat disappointed in the film, despite the two leading men. I knew a little about Proust at the time oddly enough from my studies, though I've never read the novel. My memory of the experience is mostly of a love sick and desperate Irons.

Maybe if I see it now so many years later I'll appreciate it better. I probably expected something romantic, and that's not what I experienced.  Better for Roger Ebert to describe the film:

Schlöndorff's (the director) "Swann in Love" -- as opposed to Proust's -- is the story of a pale young man who goes one day to visit a prostitute, and is actually indifferent to her until she stands him up. Then he becomes obsessed. She is not the right woman for him, but her very wrongness becomes fascinating. Because she is vulgar, because she lies, because she toys with his affection, and most particularly because she lets him smell the orchid in her bodice, she becomes the most important person in the world to him, and he throws his life and reputation at her feet. Proper society, of course, disapproves of his affair -- and talks of nothing else. In the elegant salons where ladies and gentlemen gather, Swann is not welcome if he brings along his Odette, but because he cannot be happy without her, this is no punishment. In the most humiliating scenes in the movie, he abjectly follows her through the night, knocks on a door he hopes is hers, and stands in her boudoir while she nonchalantly disrobes and dresses for an appointment with another man.

The women cast in the film are impressive also: Fanny Ardant, Marie-Christine Barrault, and Ornella Muti.  Other than the great Fanny Ardant, I'm not sure if a younger audience would remember Muti or Barrault.

Of course this "remembrance of things past" came to me because Richard Armitage will be part of a Pinter/Proust reading in New York this Thursday, January 16. Tickets may still be available:

I thought maybe I would watch the film again, if not before Thursday, then maybe this weekend. So far I've found out it's on DVD, but only found it streaming dubbed in Spanish. I could watch it, but I would hate not to hear Jeremy Iron's voice.The search has just begun, I will continue to look. Maybe someone will find it before I do.

I found the clip below, dubbed in French. At least gives a small taste of the film:

(Dearest Richard - next time, how about a Saturday matinee performance? A girl can dream.)

Speaking of Proust, maybe my next "challenge" will be the Proust Questionnaire? Maybe not.


  1. Thanks for this. I've come across lots of mention of this film in my recent research and I admit, I'm hoping that Richard plays Swann because of those groveling scenes. Something we haven't seen too much of.

    1. Hello! I agree, RA and Swann would be a good fit, from what little I remember from the film, I think he was excellent with the bit of groveling he did as Guy with Marian.
      Can't wait to hear how it all goes on Thursday night :) Enjoy!


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