Les Belles de nuit (1952)

aka: Night Beauties
Comedy / Fantasy / Romance


Les Belles de nuit photo
Claude, a modest music teacher, has become disillusioned with his waking life. No one appreciates his musical talents, his friends regard him as a fool, and the noise of daily hustle and bustles prevents him from writing his grand opera. One day, on falling asleep, he has a fantastic dream. He is another era, where he is loved by women, and where his musical genius is universally recognised. He has a similar dream the next time he sleeps, and then again. No wonder that Claude begins to prefer his dream life to his real life. Unfortunately, the dreams soon begin to transform into a nightmare...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
After their first successful collaboration on the Faust-inspired comedy La Beauté du diable (1950), director René Clair and actor Gérard Philipe joined forces for another wild excursion into whimsical fantasy, one that sees Philipe happily propelled through history and cardboard Freudian dreamscapes, into the arms of such beauties as Martine Carol and Gina Lollobrigida. It looks as if Clair has finally lost his grip on reality (a mindboggling scene with a dinosaur confirms as much), but then wasn't he the director responsible for such weird flights of fancy as Paris qui dort (1925) and Entr'acte (1924)?

The special effects may not be up to the standard of, say, Clair's earlier I married a witch, but the film is so deliciously off-the-wall and frantically paced that such defects are barely noticed. Clair attempts to use the musical form for part of the film, but somewhat half-heartedly, and this is perhaps the film's main disappointment. As a full-blooded musical, Les Belles de nuit may have been a much greater film, possibly allowing Clair to regain the esteem he enjoyed in earlier decades. Also, it would have been better if the dream scenes had been filmed in colour, to emphasise the difference between Claude's drab physical life and his much more vibrant dream life - although budgetary constraints would probably have ruled out this as a realistic possibility. As a camp, fantastic romp where anything - literally anything - is possible, the film may not be Clair's most sophisticated film, but it is still immensely enjoyable - thanks mainly to Gérard Philipe's tirelessly spirited performance and some very funny set-pieces (notably the concerto à la street noise scene and the "near-vasectomy" farce sequence involving a frighteningly large pair of scissors).   Mad, totally mad, but, like most of Clair's films, strangely satisfying.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


The director René Clair also worked with the actor Gérard Philipe on the films La Beauté du diable (1950) and Les Grandes manoeuvres (1955).

Film Credits

Related articles

2015 film releases

Read more about the French films to be released in 2015...

The Silent Era

Before the advent of sound France was a world leader in cinema. Find out more about this overlooked era.

The Golden Age

Discover the best French films of the 1930s, a decade of cinematic delights...

The Occupation Era

Even in the dark days of the Occupation, French cinema continued to impress with its artistry and diversity.

The New Wave

A wave of fresh talent in the late 1950s, early 1960s brought about a dramatic renaissance in French cinema, placing the auteur at the core of France's 7th art.