Christine (1958)

Drama / Romance


Christine photo
Vienna, 1906. For some time,  Franz Lobheiner, a lieutenant in the Austrian army, has been having a secret love affair with Lena, the wife of Baron Eggersdorf. Having grown tired of this affair, Frantz decides to end it and transfers his affections to Christine, an aspiring young opera singer who has an idealistic view of love. At first suspicious of the seriousness of Frantz's feelings towards her, Christine soon realises that she loves him more than any man on Earth. Frantz feels the same way towards Christine, but Lena clings jealously to him and grows bitter when he ends their relationship. When the Baron learns of his wife's infidelity, he challenges Frantz to a duel...
© 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Alain Delon was still a virtual unknown when he was given his first lead role in this film, a faithful adaptation of a popular play by Arthur Schnitzler. He had already appeared in a supporting role in two other films - Yves Allégret's Quand la femme s'en mêle (1957) and Marc Allégret's Sois belle et tais-toi (1958), but it was Christine that gave him his first big break and led René Clément to cast him in the film that brought him international stardom, Plein soleil (1960). It was in this film that he first worked with the Austrian actress Romy Schneider, who was already a star in the German-speaking world through her leading role in the popular Sissi series of films. Fearful of being typecast, Schneider hoped that Christine would allow her to make her name in French cinema and lead to a more interesting variety of screen roles. It was whilst making this film that Delon and Schneider fell in love and began their very public romance, which lasted five years and ended in a broken engagement.

This was one of a series of lavish period pieces that Pierre Gaspard-Huit directed around this time - it was followed by the equally sumptuous Le Capitaine Fracasse (1961) and Shéhérazade (1963). Gaspard-Huit was never the most inspired or original of filmmakers but he had a particular aptitude for getting the best out of his talented performers and delivering a polished production. With its luxurious sets and costumes, Christine exemplifies the best in French period drama of the 1950s and compares favourably with similar, larger budget Hollywood productions of the period. There is a theatricality to the design which, along with the slightly saccharine dialogue and over-signposted ending, somewhat dates the film, although the attention grabbing performances more than compensate for this. The two hyper-photogenic leads are equally delightful to watch but there are also strong contributions from the supporting artistes - Micheline Presle, Fernand Ledoux and Jean-Claude Brialy. Even though Delon and Schneider's off-screen romance didn't last (such things only happen in fairy tales), they remained the best of friends and would appear together on screen in two subsequent high-profile films - Jacques Deray's slick thriller La Piscine (1969) and Joseph Losey's political drama The Assassination of Trotsky (1972).
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