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Les Belles de Nuit / Beauties of the Night

Beauties of the Night title card

Year - 1952
Studio - Gaumont
Stars - Gérard Philipe, Martine Carol Gina Lollobrigida, Magali Vendeuil
Director - Réne Clair
Writing Credits - Réne Clair, Pierre Barillet, Jean-Pierre Grédy
Music - Georges Van Parys

Synopsis

Claude (Gérard Philipe) is a frustrated musician and composer, stuck with giving music and piano lessons to ungrateful children. His friends tease him and seem to prefer the loud noises of the city to the sounds of his piano playing. The local mechanic's daughter, Suzanne (Magali Vendeuil), however, is attracted to Claude, but he is lost in his misery.

Claude dozes off and dreams that he is a famous and successful opera composer in 1900, loved and admired by all, especially by the lovely Edmée (Martine Carol). Although his opera is to be performed at the Paris Opera, an old-timer tells him that the "olden" times were better, and his dream moves to the 1830s, where he is a great soldier. He meets the beautiful harem queen, Leïla (Gina Lollobrigida), who in his waking life is the cafe cashier. But he is then convinced that the era under Louis XVI was a greater time, and his dream changes to 1789 and the French Revolution, where he falls in love with Suzanne (the mechanic's daughter in his waking state.)

Beauties of the Night poster

His piano is repossessed and, frustrated with the indignities of his life, Claude continues to retreat to his dream world, much to the concern of his friends. In the dreams, he encounters new obstacles to his love scenarios, and the time periods begin clashing with each other.

When Claude wakes up, he realizes that he loves Suzanne, and that he is happy with his real life after all. But he now fears falling asleep, as the dreams have become nightmares. When he does sleep, he dreams that his opera debut is a disaster, he is chased by angry French soldiers, Algerians, Musketeers, knights in armor, and cavemen!

Waking himself from the nightmare, he receives a letter, requesting that he go the Paris Opera House, regarding the opera he'd submitted. He and his friends rush to Paris, and are informed that his opera has been accepted for production.

Show Spoilers

Writer/Director Réne Clair deserves a place in the Film Blanc Hall of Fame, having also made the romantic fantasy comedies, I Married a Witch, The Ghost Goes West, and It Happened Tomorrow.