Jeanne Moreau stars as the titular bride, Julie Kohler. Still a beauty at the dawn of middle age, Moreau drifts through Bride, as Julie, in a kind of trance. We learn that Julie is suicidal, attempting to leap from a high window for reasons initially unknown. Next we see her on a mission to murder seemingly random men. She pushes her first victim off a high-rise apartment balcony (atrociously staged, even for its time—we certainly would’ve gotten the point without showing a laughable dummy falling to the ground). Though I suppose it’s something of a spoiler, the title nearly gives it away: she’s getting revenge for the murder of her husband. I won’t explain the hows and whys of her husband’s demise, but suffice it to say the threadbare plot makes the absolute least of it.
Truffaut, who co-scripted with Jean-Louis Richard (adapting the novel La Mariée Était en Noir by William Irish), eschews any real sense of true suspense as Julie moves from one accomplice to another (five men were involved in her husband’s death). Moreau is admittedly vivid in her presentation of a woman with a one track mind, but she’s not afforded the luxury of an actual character to play. Eventually Julie comes off as a bit of an automaton, sort of like a benign-looking Terminator. We don’t have any particular reason to care about her, other than a basic sympathy based on the loss of her husband (who we care even less about, seeing as he’s not a character in the film—just a day player who overacts the bloodless impact of a sniper’s bullet). Between Truffaut, his cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and his editor Claudine Bouché, individual shots (often rather casually, almost carelessly, framed) are frequently allowed to linger for far too long. The result is a leaden pace that makes The Bride Wore Black a profoundly dull viewing experience.
There’s a lot of discussion by Julie Kirgo in her interesting booklet essay and in her commentary track (with film historian Nick Redman and Bernard Herrmann biographer Steven C. Smith) about significant disagreements between Truffaut and cinematographer Coutard. Whatever impact their aesthetic differences may have had, the Twilight Time Blu-ray offers a generally excellent image. Color reproduction is often striking, as is the level of fine detail visible in close-ups and medium shots. The softness visible in many wide shots appears to be inherent in the original photography. The audio is sufficiently clear, offered as DTS-HD MA mono in both the original French as well as dubbed English.
In addition to the aforementioned audio commentary track, there’s also an isolated score track featuring Bernard Herrmann’s music. And as a very special addition, Twilight Time has included a bonus audio CD containing a lengthy interview with Herrmann. Lovers of Herrmann’s film scores will certainly appreciate Conversation Piece: An Unvarnished Chat with Bernard Herrmann, which runs a generous 79 minutes.
Again, perhaps I’m missing something, but I didn’t get much out of The Bride Wore Black. But for fans of François Truffaut, Jeanne Moreau, and/or Bernard Herrmann, it comes with a default recommendation. Visit Screen Archives for ordering information (while supplies of the limited edition Blu-ray last).