Long Absence, The (Une aussi longue absence):

Henri Colpi directed The Long Absence (French: Une aussi longue absence, “Such a long absence”), is a well-crafted if thematically routine French melodrama about a male amnesia and a female obsession, starring Alida Valli.

The Long Absence
(Une Aussi Longue Absence)
Une longue affiche.jpg

Film poster

Alida Valli plays Therese, a Puteaux café owner mourning her husband’s mysterious disappearance 16 years earlier. When a tramp arrives in the town, she believes he is her husband. Though the tramp is suffering from amnesia, she is determined to bring back his memory of the past.

At the 1961 Cannes Film Fest, The Long Absence shared the Palme d’Or prize with Luis Buñuel’s far superior film, Viridiana.

Premise:

Sixteen years after the end of World War II, Thérèse Langlois owns a pub in Puteaux, Paris.  Though planning her annual vacation in Chaulieu with her lover, she is growing emotionally distant.

At the pub, a tramp walks by daily singing “The Barber of Seville” aria and other opera songs. Intrigued, Thérèse asks her bartender Martine to invite him for a drink. The tramp, who lives by the river, reveals he is suffering from amnesia but carries identification cards with the name of Robert Landais.

After he leaves, Thérèse follows him to the river and studies his face and movements. Soon she becomes convinced he is in fact her long-lost husband Albert Langlois.

While the tramp is sitting at another table, the three Langlois loudly recount Albert’s story; Albert had been arrested by the French police in Chaulieu in June 1944 and turned over to the Gestapo in Angers, and spent time in a camp with his friend Aldo Ganbini. Thérèse herself (née Ganbini) was originally from Chaulieu but stayed in Puteaux, they recount.

The tramp leaves the pub without acknowledging himself as Albert. Thérèse ends her relationship with her lover, and meets with the tramp for dinner. The tramp still does not indicate he remembers anything about a past life.

Thérèse loudly calls out the name Albert Langlois, and, overwhelmed, the tramp raises his hands in pose of surrender and flees. Running away, he narrowly avoids traffic accident.

Thérèse’s friends claim that the tramp is gone, trying to persuade her to give up on her mistaken memories. However, unconvinced, she decides to restore the tramp’s memories for the upcoming winter season.

Cast

Alida Valli as Thérèse Langlois
Georges Wilson as The Tramp
Charles Blavette as Fernand
Amédée as Marcel Langlois
Paul Faivre as Pensioner
Pierre Parel as Manager
Catherine Fonteney as Alice
Diane Lepvrier as Martine (as Diana Lepvrier)
Nane Germon as Simone
Georges Bellec as Young man
Charles Bouillaud as Favier
Corrado Guarducci as Workman
Clément Harari as Man at Juke Box
Jean Luisi as Workman
Pierre Mirat as Druggist

Credits:

Directed by Henri Colpi
Written by Marguerite Duras, Gérard Jarlot
Produced by Alberto Barsanti, Claude Jaeger
Jacques Nahum (executive producer)
Cinematography Marcel Weiss
Edited by Jasmine Chasney, Jacqueline Meppiel
Music by Georges Delerue
Distributed by Commercial Pictures

Release dates May 17, 1961 (France); November 15, 1962 (U.S.)

Running time: 85 minutes