Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Joseph Losey's last film is a handsome puzzle that was rejected by many critics. Basically a dour soap
opera, its script refuses to get specific about its general aims while dabbling in a rather
woman-hating story about the havoc that ensues when a desirable country girl mixes with
some wealthy acquaintances.
The production is impeccable and the direction exacting. It's not one of Losey's earlier Pinter-esque
art films, the ones with the pregnant silences. The interpersonal chemistry here is fairly easy
to read but conclusions don't come easy. The story isn't exactly in love with the human race -
screenwriter Monique Lange wrote Henri-Georges Clouzot's last misanthropic movie, and the source
novel is from Roger Vailland, an author who adapted Les Liasons Dangereuses and
Et Mourir de Plaisir for Roger Vadim, and The Law for Jules Dassin.
Frédérique (Isabelle Huppert) works in a fish hatchery and has a
predatory attitude toward men, having tease-blackmailed her father's partner (Jean-Paul Roussillon)
and made an anti-male pact with her girlfriends. But they've all married, although Frédérique's
marriage to Galuchat (Jacques Spessier) began as a business arrangement to conceal his
homosexuality. Together they hustle some very rich international businessmen slumming in a
bowling alley. Frustrated husband Rambert (Jean-Pierre Cassel) humiliates his wife Lou (Jeanne
Moreau) to be near Frédérique, and playboy bachelor Saint-Genis (Daniel Olbrychski)
ditches his girlfriend Mariline (Lisette Malidor) to take Frédérique with him
to Japan - where she refuses to sleep with him. Frédérique doesn't exploit her
admirers as much as allow them to reveal their worst natures, and little good comes of her
With a typical love of blatant symbolism, Joseph Losey begins La Truite with a scene of
Frédérique mechanically milking sperm from a big trout fish, to fertilize eggs in
a hatchery. She attracts men with her long red hair like a brightly-colored fishing lure, and is
often seen around water that a trout might frequent. She's a climber, although not the typical
kind who actively schemes to get what she wants. Marilene notes that Frédérique doesn't talk to other
women, but in Tokyo the redhead strikes up a friendship with Gloria (Alexis Smith), an aging
golddigger on her second millionaire husband. Gloria speaks about something called satori -
a world of pleasure that Frédérique's never experienced. Love isn't her aim; she
cares for Galuchat but when it comes to both sex and sentiment, Frédérique's as
cold as a gilled you-know-what.
All of this might be as mechanical as Frédérique's assisted trout sex if it weren't
for Losey's subtlety and ambiguity. Characters don't come out with regular position speeches, and when
Lou and Rambert finally get honest about their mutual contempt, violence ensues. Worldly
Saint-Genis takes Frédérique's unspoken exploitation of his decadence in stride.
Galuchat is a closed book of alcoholism and potential suicide; his specific arrangement with
Frédérique is hard to pin down but no odder than any relationship in real life that we don't
A large section of the film takes place in Tokyo and bears comparison with last year's
Lost in Translation. Frédérique travels there as a kept companion and is
pampered with a car at her disposal while her boyfriend openly consorts with his Japanese girlfriend.
There she can be as provocative as she likes.
Critics can ask exactly why Frédérique, who is no Rita Hayworth, causes so much of
a disturbance among the male sex. But Isabelle Huppert does make herself attractive and
mysterious. She's available-looking with a hint of dare about her, and she's something more than just a
cheap tease. It's an interesting puzzle even if overall the film seems heartless, as I'm sure
Losey intended. When the winning means getting upstream the fastest and
attracting the fattest spawning partners, the Frédériques of the world get ahead.
If attracting a topnotch cast is the mark of an important director, Losey qualifies. Jeanne Moreau
is magnificent, with Jean-Pierre Cassel
(Those Magnificent Men in
Their Flying Machines,
Is Paris Burning?) running a close second.
Les uns et les autres) is slick as the
international playboy and Jacques Spessier
(Black and White in Color,
Stavisky) turns in a good portrait of
a hard-to-read character. Isao Yamagata
(Seven Samurai, Warning from Space, Sword of Vengeance III) is believable
as a Japanese industrialist. It's very interesting to see the famous Warners star Alexis Smith turn up,
and Craig Stevens' (Peter Gunn) appearance in a last-minute cameo.
La Truite is beautifully photographed and designed by Henri Alekan and Alexander Trauner.
Beyond his penchant for potent symbols, Joseph Losey's direction betrays not a hint of mannerisms
or affectations. It's a very good picture.
HVe's DVD of La Truite looks fantastic and flawless in an enhanced encoding with rich color, and
a vibrant soundtrack for all the early-eighties dance music heard in the nightclubs. Brian McFarlane
provides thoughtful liner notes, while the only other extras are some filmographies. The box and
menu design are quietly tasteful. It's easy to see why the English language release didn't use a
translated title, or this disc would end up misfiled on the outdoor sportsman shelf.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
La Truite rates:
Movie: Very Good
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 28, 2004
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson