THE French, who are usually realistic about romance, are decidedly undecided about "Adelaide," which was exposed at the Festival Theater yesterday. Although this study of the rending frustrations of the three principals in a ménage à trois has a sophisticated veneer and a haunting, bittersweet quality, it struggles somewhat aimlessly with the obvious and rarely fires the emotions or convinces a viewer either of truth or tragedy.
A sense of foreboding and mystery is introduced but soon vitiated as Ingrid Thulin, newly widowed, marries Jean Sorel, her youthful lover. He is a scientific hot shot, who, it also turns out, has been having an affair with her daughter a teen-age, hip, pretty brunette of the title. Miss Thulin, however, quickly reveals she has been aware of that liaison, and love under one roof becomes less a mystery than a series of impasses that defy solution.
In attempting to dissect their characters, both the scenarist and the director leave a mite too much to the imagination and credulity. Mother knows full well that her daughter is still having trysts with her husband. He, in turn, is conscience-stricken but can't relinquish either one and, with mother's help, thrusts the daughter at his best pal. But when she defiantly says she'll marry him, an explosive confrontation in which our harried husband is wounded ensues and ruins a potentially happy dénouement.
Love doesn't find a way, obviously, and the foggy climax indicating a tragic ending to all the scheming, is abrupt and incomprehensible since the love-torn trio seems to be a fairly contented family at long last.
Amid all the bickering and indecision, Miss Thulin, blonde, wan and anguished, gives a sensitive portrayal of a mature woman caught between two loves, who also is vividly passionate in a couple of nude scenes with Mr. Sorel. As Adelaide, Sylvie Fennec, a slim, curvaceous newcomer, is gratifyingly professional and equally photogenic in the boudoir. Credit Mr. Sorel with being glum and confused.
ADELAIDE, screenplay by Jean-Pierre Petrolacci, from a short story by Gobineau; directed by Jean-Daniel Simon; produced by Films Number One (Paris) and Franco Riganti Production (Rome); released by Sigma III. At the Festival Theater, 57th Street at Fifth Avenue. Running time: 86 minutes.
Elizabeth . . . . . Ingrid Thulin
Frederic . . . . . Jean Sorel
Adelaide . . . . . Sylvie Fennec
Dickson . . . . . Faith Brook
Portier . . . . . Jacques Portet
Christian . . . . . Jean-Pierre Bernard
Janine . . . . . Joelie Bernard