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Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Elena and Her Men (Elena et les hommes) (Directors Suite) (1956)

Elena and Her Men (Elena et les hommes) (Directors Suite) (1956)

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Released 15-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Audio Commentary-by Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Monash Uni.
Trailer-Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 94:32
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:39) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean Renoir

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ingrid Bergman
Jean Marais
Mel Ferrer
Jean Richard
Juliette Gréco
Pierre Bertin
Dora Doll
Frédéric Duvallès
Renaud Mary
Jacques Morel
Albert Rémy
Jean Claudio
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Joseph Kosma

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Elena and Her Men (Elena et les hommes)(1956) brings to a close the loose 'stage and spectacle' trilogy of films that Jean Renoir made in the 1950s, together with The Golden Coach (Le carrosse d'or)(1953) and French Cancan (1954). All three films have common characteristics. They each were French-Italian international productions, each film was a French late 19th-century costume period musical/comedy and/or drama, with emphasis on the life of the theatre and each film also had many love triangles amongst the main cast, in fact all three female leads (Ana Magnani in The Golden Coach, Francoise Arnoul in French Cancan and Ingrid Bergman in Elena and Her Men) have three suitors each in their respective films.

    This final film of the trilogy is slightly different. Unlike The Golden Coach and French Cancan it is not specifically about the theatre, rather the whole setting of the film and the historical dramatic events presented serve as a metaphor for Renoir's belief that 'the whole world is like a stage'. Also, you need a little background knowledge to appreciate the film, it is a thinly-veiled adaptation of the real-life events of the French general Georges Boulanger who became politically popular in France in the mid-1880s, but fell out of favour in the early 1890s, committing suicide on the grave of his mistress after creating enemies in French political circles due to his popularity. His advisers wanted him to seize power in the late 1880s, that he didn't ultimately led to his downfall. The colloquial saying, which first appeared in popular culture around the beginning of the 18th century is certainly true about the life of General Boulanger, "he who hesitates is lost". If Renoir had continued with his earlier plan to make the film a faithful account of Boulanger's life then we may have had another socially-biting comedy-drama similar to the types of films that Renoir was renowned for in the 1930s. But, this was the 1950s and Renoir was making comic films about the theatre now, hence the obligatory happy ending that we get in Elena and Her Men.

    Ingrid Bergman stars as the Polish princess Elena Sokorowska who seeks a suitor to fund her lavish lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. She finds the leather baron Martin-Michaud (Pierre Bertin) and becomes engaged to him, however Henri de Chevincourt (Mel Ferrer) falls for her, even though his background is lower class. Upon a chance meeting on Bastille Day the French general, Francois Rollan (Jean Marais) is taken by her charms and ultimately his advisers convince Elena to try to influence the general to aspire to political office. The plot of the film lends itself more to the classic Hollywood screwball comedies of the 1930s in regard to the love triangles, the only difference being that the film is a period film, whereas screwball comedies made in the 1930s usually had contemporary settings.

    Jean Renoir had hoped to market the film with an English overdub in the United States, but when he showed the film to Jack Warner, Warner found the plot of the film incomprehensible. In America the film was re-titled Paris Does Strange Things and it flopped, as it had done also in Europe both at the box-office and critically. It seems the era in which Elena and Her Men were made had an influence upon this outcome, after all Max Ophuls similarly late 19th-century period film, Lola Montes, made in 1955 at great expense (it was made in English, German and French in widescreen CinemaScope and stereophonic sound) was also a spectacular flop and the next era of films in French cinema brought forth the French New Wave films which were less elaborative in production design and influenced more by the Hollywood cinema of the late-1940s and early-1950s.

    This was the first film that Ingrid Bergman made after her separation from Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini had gone to India at this time and caused a sensation by falling for Sonali Das Gupta. This scandal made him leave India by request of the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Bergman would later go on to get an Oscar in 1957 for her role in Anastasia, with her critical reputation restored after she was forced to leave the Hollywood system in 1950 when she fell for Rossellini. Elena and Her Men was the last film that Renoir had a big budget for, with Mel Ferrer (whose wife at the time, Audrey Hepburn, had her scenes for Funny Face shot in Paris at the same time as Elena and Her Men was shot) and Jean Marais, famous for his work with Jean Cocteau in Beauty and the Beast (1946) and Orpheus (1950) also starring. Today the film is viewed with more critical favour, with the understanding that it is meant to be comical, much like Renoir's film that preceded it, French Cancan.

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Transfer Quality


    Like the previous release of Renoir's spectacle trilogy, The Golden Coach, this release of Elena and Her Men suffers from contrast fluctuations and related colour bleeding, but not blurriness.

    The original aspect ratio of the film is 1:33:1 full screen. The video transfer looks quite good. The main presentation takes up 5.76gb of space on the dual-layered DVD with an average bitrate of 8.22 m/b per sec. Although the transfer looks sharp although there are some instances of low level noise present in the transfer.

    The colour fluctuations in the video transfer occur regularly during scene transitions and are quite noticeable, even if they are very brief. As a viewer you get used to it, but it is a shame that this has not been fully restored to its original brilliance.

    Elena and Her Men was made in Technicolor, like the other films in the 'stage and spectacle' trilogy. It is less saturated than French Cancan.

    Again, just like in French Cancan, there are minor instances of white (or negative) film artefacts, telecine wobble and reel change markings.

    Subtitles in English are in yellow or white. The default option is yellow as the main presentation is in colour, usually the default option is white for classic cinematic releases by Madman as most classic cinema is in black-and-white.

    The RSDL change occurs at 52:39 during a scene change which fades-to-black.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is slight background hiss at times but overall it is quite good for its age.

    Both audio tracks, the French main soundtrack and the English audio commentary are Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks encoded at 224 kbps.

    Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

    The musical soundtrack by Joseph Kosma, who did the score for Renoir's classic films in the 1930s, La Grande Illusion (1937) and The Rules of the Game (1939) is less upbeat than French Cancan because the musical numbers in this film are not dance numbers, rather they are comic, popular numbers presented as street songs which close each of the three acts of the film.

    There is no surround channel usage because the soundtrack is in mono.

    The subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary by Adrian Martin, Senior Research Fellow, Film and Television Studies, Monash University and co-editor of ROUGE magazine

This commentary by Dr. Adrian Martin is simply masterful. If Madman Directors Suite label had released this film prior to the release of the box-set Stage and Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir in 2004 in Region 1 in the United States by the Criterion Collection, then rest-assured that Criterion would have ported this commentary for their release as they did with their releases in 2009 and 2010 of Jean-Luc Godard's 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Vivre Sa Vie (which were both released by Madman in 2006). The strength of this commentary is in the background research that Dr. Martin conducted for the film. He mentions the critical reaction of the film and compares it to the Cahiers Du Cinema critics who were less critical of Elena and Her Men because of their great admiration for Renoir. He also mentions American critic Tag Gallagher's observation that Jean Renoir has rhythmic patterns in all his films. In Elena and Her Men the use of windows and entrances and exits is important to the events of the film and they have significant meaning, which Dr. Martin points out. There are many more observations that Dr. Martin makes. I advise you to get the DVD so you can fully appreciate them, just as I did.

Directors Suite trailers

Four trailers are included for Jean Renoir's The River, Early Summer by Yasujiro Ozu, Latcho Drom by Tony Gatlif and Playtime by Jacques Tati.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Elena and Her Men has been issued in Region 1 in the Unites States as part of a box set entitled Stage & Spectacle: Three Films by Jean Renoir. This box set also includes The Golden Coach which starred Ana Magnani and French Cancan which starred Jean Gabin. This box-set is packed with extras including introductions by Renoir, Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich, an interview with designer Max Douy, a three-part interview by Jacques Rivette with Renoir and a superb BBC one hour documentary by David Thompson; Jean Renoir - Hollywood and Beyond. This box-set release also includes essays by Andrew Sarris, Jonathan Rosenbaum and Christopher Faulkner.

The Region 1 release is fantastic, replete with extras. If you want to see just Elena and Her Men then the Region 4 Directors Suite is a good option also, especially as both releases share the same transfer.


    Released at a time when the popularity of French period films was waning, Elena and Her Men is a wonderful conclusion for Jean Renoir's 'stage and spectacle' trilogy of films made in the 1950s. The critics of Cahiers Du Cinema, who would become important directors of the French New Wave period during the early 1960s, were hesitant to dismiss this film on account of their adoration of Jean Renoir.

    Elena and Her Men has grown in critical reception since it's release, like Max Ophuls' Lola Montes, although unlike that film today it is not thought of a masterpiece. It is best possibly appreciated as a historical homage to General Georges Boulanger with Jean Renoir's comic touch added.

    Madman Entertainment's specialist label, Directors Suite has again produced a faithful homage to a great director in its DVD production, with this film notable as being the only standalone release of Elena and Her Men in any DVD Region.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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