|Ingrid Bergman in Elena and Her Men (1956) d. Jean Renoir|
Elena and Her Men (1956)
d. Jean Renoir
Criterion Collection #244
Another popular category within the Criterion Collection is the lighter works of directors who are generally considered to be "serious" types. Elena and Her Men, a romantic comedy starring Ingrid Bergman as a Polish Princess, fits neatly into this category. Set after the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, Bergman's Princess Elena Sorokowska is the object of affection for multiple men. You've got Henri de Chevincourt, a quiet but influential aristocrat who prefers to stay out of the limelight, then you've got General Rollan, who is being pushed by his supporters to assume dictatorial powers in the aftermath of a border dispute over a "captured" French observation balloon.
I don't think Elena and Her Men is supposed to be anything other than light comedy, but a movie about a potential dictator in the aftermath of World War II seems like a strange choice for a romantic comedy. Throughout the film, Bergman is pushed to use her influence with the General to get him to become Dictator, but ultimately she tells him to follow his heart and helps him escape his fate by means of kissing his romantic revival (she makes out with the revival in front of the assembled masses while the General slips out the front door.)
For me, 85% of the pleasure of watching this movie came from Bergman's performance and 15% from the post-Franco-Prussian War milieu. Renoir does a stylish, professional job executing his task, but I can see why the New Wave critics might have found films like this wanting.