The Soft Skin

From 1964, François Truffaut's fourth feature has never gotten much respect—even though many people (myself included) regard it as one of his best. Opening with a moody blast of Georges Delerue's score, the movie immediately establishes itself as a sort of domestic suspense film: Jean Desailly's lit-crit superstar Pierre rushing from the bosom of his family to Orly Airport to barely catch a plane to Lisbon, where he is to give a lecture on Balzac. En route, he meets a beautiful flight attendant, Nicole (Françoise Dorléac), half his age and fascinated by French literature as well. The Soft Skin is a movie about the agony and ecstasy of an extramarital affair. Truffaut treats it like a crime film—low-key yet tense, filled with carefully planted potential "clues" and an undercurrent of anxiety. It's not noir, but there’s never a moment when it isn't clear how large a part chance plays in determining the course of not-so-lucky Pierre's life. (NR) J. HOBERMAN

Fri., Sept. 9, 6:30 & 8:45 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 10, 4:15, 6:30 & 8:45 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 4:15, 6:30 & 8:45 p.m., 2011

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