Mississippi Mermaid (French: La sirène du Mississipi) is a 1969
French romantic drama film directed by
François Truffaut and starring
Catherine Deneuve and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Adapted from the 1947 novel
Waltz into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich, the film is about a tobacco
Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean who becomes engaged
through correspondence to a woman he does not know. When she arrives
it is not the same woman in the photo, but he marries her anyway.
Filmed in southern
Réunion island, Mississippi Mermaid
was the 17th highest-grossing film of the year in
France with a total
of 1,221,027 admissions. It was remade in 2001 as Original Sin,
Michael Cristofer and starring
Angelina Jolie and Antonio
3.1 Filming locations
4.1 Box Office
6 External links
Louis Mahé (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a wealthy tobacco plantation owner
Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, awaits the arrival of his
bride-to-be, Julie Roussel (Catherine Deneuve), whom he has never met.
They became acquainted through the personals column of a French
newspaper and have been corresponding by mail. At the Hotel Mascarin
he meets his partner Jardine who accompanies him to pick up the ring.
Louis drives to the dock to greet Julie who is arriving on the steamer
Mississipi (spelled with one p according to the French spelling of the
river at the time) from Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia. When
they meet he is surprised by her beauty and does not recognize her;
she is not the woman in the photo that she had sent him. She explains
that she sent the photo of a neighbor to assure the sincerity of his
intentions. He confesses that he too has not told the complete truth,
having hidden the fact that he was wealthy.
Louis and Julie quickly marry, and his adoration of his new bride
makes him overlook inconsistencies with what she wrote in her letters.
He gives Julie access to his bank accounts and prints her image on the
cigarette packs his company manufactures. After receiving an angry
letter from Julie's sister, Berthe Roussel (Nelly Borgeaud), demanding
to know Julie's whereabouts, Louis returns home to find that Julie is
gone, and that she has absconded with nearly 28 million francs, all
but emptying his bank accounts. Soon after, Julie's sister Berthe
arrives and informs him that the woman he married was not Julie and
that she saw her sister board the Mississipi. They hire a private
detective, Comolli, to track down the impostor and bring her to
On a flight to Nice, France, Louis suddenly collapses from exhaustion.
While recuperating in the Clinique Heurtebise sanitarium, he sees
Julie('s impostor) on television, dancing at a nightclub in Antibes.
He buys a gun and travels to
Antibes where he breaks into her room at
the Hotel Monorail, intent on killing her. When she returns and is
confronted by Louis, she offers no resistance. Explaining that her
real name is Marion Vergano, she tells him of her sordid past; of the
years she spent in prison; and of her association with a heartless
gangster, Richard, who was with her on the Mississipi. She recounts
that when they met Julie Roussel and learned of her forthcoming
marriage, Richard fabricated a plot to kill Julie and send Marion in
her place to rob Louis. Afterwards Richard forced her to go through
with the robbery and then abandoned her. She tells Louis that she
still loves him, and Louis forgives her.
Louis and Marion buy a red convertible and drive to Aix-en-Provence
where they move into a house together and spend their days traveling
the region and making love. Their happiness is interrupted by Comolli,
who has arrived in Aix on the trail of the impostor. After trying in
vain to bribe the detective to drop the case, Louis shoots him dead
and buries him in the wine cellar of the house. Louis and Marion flee
to Lyon, but she grows increasingly dissatisfied with their fugitive
existence and longs for a life of luxury in Paris. Louis returns
Réunion and sells his share in the plantation to his
partner Jardine. Upon his return he finds the police on their trail.
Again they are forced to flee, leaving most of his money behind.
They head into the mountains where they find an isolated cabin in
which to hide. They hope to cross over into Switzerland, but Marion is
restless and unhappy with their life on the run. Louis becomes
increasingly ill, and after nearly collapsing, he suspects that Marion
has been putting rat poison in his coffee. He attempts to escape, but
Marion brings him back to the cabin. As she pours him another glass of
coffee, he reveals his knowledge of her plan, accepts his fate with no
regrets, and expresses his overwhelming love for her. Ashamed at her
actions, Marion knocks the glass from Louis' hand and vows to make
amends. She acknowledges that no woman deserves to be loved like this,
but she assures him that she loves him and that they can still go away
together. Crying in his arms, Marion tells him, "I'm learning what
love is, Louis. It's painful." After Louis regains his strength, they
leave the cabin behind them in a snowstorm and head off together
toward the border.
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Louis Mahé
Catherine Deneuve as Julie Roussel / Marion Vergano
Michel Bouquet as Comolli
Nelly Borgeaud as Berthe Roussel
Marcel Berbert as Jardine
Martine Ferrière as the Landlady
Yves Drouhet as the Detective
Roland Thénot as Richard
Aix-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France
Antibes, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Grenoble, Isère, France
Le Tampon, Réunion
Lyon, Rhône, Rhône-Alpes, France
Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France
The film was the 16th most popular movie at the French box office in
In his review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby wrote that the film
"defies easy definition and blithely triumphs over what initially
appears to be structural schizophrenia." Canby noted the
performances of Belmondo, Deneuve, and Bouquet, which were "played
with marvelous style." Canby concluded:
In Mississippi Mermaid, as in all of Truffaut's films, love leads only
to an uncertain future that, at best, may contain some joy along with
the inevitable misery. Truffaut's special talent, however, is for
communicating a sense of the value of that joy.
In his review in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999, film critic
Edward Guthmann praised the film, writing:
Truffaut tells his story with terrific dispatch, as if he was thrilled
by its possibilities and couldn't wait to share his enthusiasm ... the
result is a cool combo of film noir, star vehicle and picaresque
romance. It's vintage Truffaut, and a great way to get acquainted or
reacquainted with one of cinema's true masters.
The film, however, had many detractors. Dennis Schwartz, for example,
This perverse love story just doesn't fly. The two leads play
unsympathetic characters and instead of getting into their character's
heads they both play it as a game. It comes off as a disturbing film
that seems pointless and has questionable entertainment value. It's
one of the few misfires from the talented Truffaut, even with the
restored 13 minutes missing from its American release that supposedly
makes the film more lucid.
On the review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an
85% positive rating from top film critics based on 13 reviews, and a
71% positive audience rating based on 2,387 user ratings.
^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film
Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 282
^ Box Office information for film at Box Office Story
^ "Mississippi Mermaid". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 May
^ a b "Locations for Mississippi Mermaid". Internet Movie Database.
Retrieved 16 May 2012.
^ "La Sirène du Mississippi". J.P.'s Box-Office. Retrieved 16 May
^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on
2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-31.
^ Allen, Don. Finally Truffaut. New York: Beaufort Books. 1985.
ISBN 0-8253-0335-4. OCLC 12613514. pp. 230.
^ "The World's Top Twenty Films." Sunday Times [London, England] 27
Sept. 1970: 27. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. accessed 5 Apr. 2014
^ a b c Canby, Vincent (April 11, 1970). "
Mississippi Mermaid (1969)".
The New York Times. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
^ Guthmann, Edward (May 14, 1999). "Truffaut's 'Mermaid' Merits Second
Look". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
^ Schwarz, Dennis. "Mississippi Mermaid". Ozus' World. Retrieved 16
^ "Mississippi Mermaid". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
Baecque, Antoine de; Toubiana, Serge (1999). Truffaut: A Biography.
New York: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-375-40089-6.
Bergan, Ronald, ed. (2008). François Truffaut: Interviews. Oxford:
University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-934110-13-3.
Holmes, Diana; Ingram, Robert, eds. (1998).
François Truffaut (French
Film Directors). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Insdorf, Annette (1995). François Truffaut. New York: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-47808-3.
Mississippi Mermaid on IMDb
Mississippi Mermaid at the TCM Movie Database
Mississippi Mermaid at AllMovie
Mississippi Mermaid at Rotten Tomatoes
Mississippi Mermaid at Box Office Mojo
Mississippi Mermaid at Le Film Guide
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