Film adaptation of a play, Adorable Julia has the good-natured and calm irony of the W.S. Maugham novel on which it is based, with sharp dialogues and a subtle social criticism that is surprisingly topical. At times predictable, it nevertheless manages to give iconic moments, thanks to the voice and above all the thoughts of the protagonist, a very convincing Lili Palmer. In competition at the Cannes Film Festival 1962.
Love in London
Based on the novel Theatre by William Somerset Maugham, the comedy Adorable Julia, a French-Austrian co-production, premiered in competition at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.
The protagonist of Adorable Julia is, of course, Julia (Lilli Palmer), a skilled and successful stage actress, who often works under the direction of her husband Michael (Charles Boyer, Latin lover par excellence), and the undisputed star of London’s West-End nights. And it is precisely the constant repetition of family dynamics even at work that causes boredom to creep into their relationship. Predictably, in a London all “variety lights” and cars in Piccadilly Circus, the actress first considers seducing a family friend, desisted, and then gives in to the flattery of a young Jean Sorel, in the role of an elegant and enterprising theatre accountant, madly in love with her. Unsurprisingly, things do not turn out as planned.
This is how the comedy by Alfred Weidenmann, a German director also famous for having directed numerous episodes of the legendary Derrick, begins. In his brilliant mise en scène of Adorable Julia some elements of the Wiener Film are present, despite the fact that “making Viennese-style films” was already outdated. The film genre, in fact, only existed for a few decades between the 1920s and 1950s. Essentially codifiable as a blend of comedy, romance and costume melodrama, it used to put historical Vienna at the heart of the story, using light entertainment to encourage a deeper historical-political analysis of the society depicted.
Taxonomically speaking, we are right there. Of course, in Adorable Julia it is the London setting that plays a central role, but the bittersweet comedy with its characters from different backgrounds is well depicted, especially in the love triangle between Julia, Tom and a young actress, who undermines the initial love affair.
The soundtrack, composed by R.A Wilhelm, plays a leading role, punctuating comic timing and intense scenes, as if Julia’s life were a continuum between stage and reality: again, a homage/recall to the Wiener Film, making music a true character, capable of influencing the story. Honourable mention to the scriptwriter Leo Metzenbauer, eclectic illustrator and designer, specialised in set designs focusing precisely on classical music which, just to close the loop, helped to give a Viennese touch to an otherwise very different city.
In short, Adorable Julia focuses on the customs and habits of the society of the time, and does so by staging a simple film without subplots or plot twists, giving far more importance to words and dialogue, in a topical and credible way.
Original title: Julia, du bist zauberhaft
Directed by: Alfred Wiedenmann
Country/year: Austria, France / 1962
Running time: 97’
Genre: comedy, romance
Cast: Lilli Palmer, Charles Boyer, Jean Sorel, Jeanne Valérie, Ljuba Welitsch, Tilly Lauenstein, Charles Regnier, Thomas Fritsch, Herbert Fux, Hanna Ehrenstrasser, Gustaf Elger, Sylvia Lydi, Friedrich Neubauer, Fritz Puchstein, Herta Risawy, Peter Schmidberger, Otto Schmöle, Fritz Weiss, Karin Baal, Dietmar Schönherr
Screenplay: Guy Bolton, Pascal Jardin, Eberhard Keindorff
Cinematography: Werner Krien
Produced by: Production de l’Etoile, Wiener Mundus-Film