Les Belles de nuit (1952)
aka: Night Beauties
A film directed by René Clair

Genre: 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

Already renowned for his acutely surreal and optimistic view of life, director René Clair surpassed himself with this outlandish romantic fantasy. As French matinee idol Gérard Philipe is propelled through history and cardboard Freudian dreamscapes, into the arms of such beauties as Martine Carol and Gina Lollobrigida, Clair appears to have all but lost his tenuous grip on reality (the scene with the dinosaur confirms it) - but who cares?  This is a film which, like Clair's earlier comic masterpieces, is intended to distract and entertain, and it does that marvellously and unashamedly.

The special effects may not be up to the standard of, say, 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.

Where to watch this film

The film Les Belles de nuit may be available on amazon via the following links:
  • amazon.co.uk
  • amazon.fr
  • amazon.com

Similar films you may like

Best of 0
Best of 0
Best of 0
Best of 0

Film Credits

  • Director: René Clair
  • Script: René Clair, Gian Luigi Rondi, Pierre Barillet, Jean-Pierre Grédy
  • Photo: Armand Thirard
  • Music: Georges Van Parys
  • Cast: Gérard Philipe (Claude), Martine Carol (Edmée 1900), Gina Lollobrigida (La caissière du Grand Café), Magali Vendeuil (Suzanne), Marilyn Buferd (La postière), Raymond Bussières (Roger - le garagiste), Raymond Cordy (Gaston), Bernard La Jarrige (Léon - le gendarme), Albert Michel (Le facteur), Palau (Le vieux monsieur qui critique toutes les époques), Jean Parédès (Paul - le pharmacien), Paolo Stoppa (Le directeur de l'Opéra), Le Choeur Marguerite Mercier (Les choristes), Claire Guibert (La caissière du Grand Café), Monique Aïssata (La servante de Leïla), Robert Balpo (Le directeur du collège), Madeleine Barbulée (La femme au bureau de poste), Jacques Beauvais (Petit rôle), Georges Bever (Le garçon de café), Jackie Blanchot (Un sbire algérien), Mathilde Casadesus (La gouvernante de Suzanne 1789), Christian Chantal (Singer), Marcel Charvey (Un témoin du duel), René-Jean Chauffard (M. de Villebois), Max Dalban (L'oriental qui amène des ciseaux)
  • Country: France / Italy
  • Language: French
  • Support: Black and White
  • Runtime: 87 min
  • Aka: Night Beauties ; Beauties of the Night

Related Links

Here are some other pages that you may find helpful:
Buy/watch this movie:
Discover the best in French cinema:
Explore best French films by genre:

Classic films to rediscover

Best of 0
Best of 0
Best of 0
Best of 0

For books and DVDs

Visit our on-line stores to browse the latest films out on DVD and books relating to cinema. Any purchases will allow us to maintain and grow filmsdefrance.com.

Increase your knowledge of French cinema

Best of 0
Best of 1
Best of 2
Best of 3