Scen.: Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Jean-José Richer. F.: Roger Fellous. M.: Nadine Marquand. Mus.: Serge Gainsbourg. Int.: Françoise Brion (Miléna), Alexandra Stewart (Séraphine ‘Fifine’), Paul Guers (Jean-Paul), Jacques Riberolles (Robert), Gérard Barray (Miguel), Michel Galabru (César), Bernadette Lafont (Prudence), Florence Loinod (Florence). Prod.: Pierre Braunberger per Les Films de la Pléiade. DCP. D.: 95’.
Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (1920-1989) started his career as a cinema critic in the 1940s, writing for “Cinémonde”, “La Revue du cinéma” and “Le Nouvel Observateur”. He helped set up the renowned film society Objectif 49 and then went on to co-found “Cahiers du cinéma” in 1951, in the years leading up to the French New Wave. Editor-in-chief of “Cahiers” until 1961, he published a novel, Les Portes du Baptistère, in 1955, began acting occasionally alongside his work as a critic (for Jean Cocteau, Pierre Kast, Jacques Rivette and then for Alain Resnais, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Claude Lelouch and Michel Deville) and directed short films. In 1959, the same year as the release of The 400 Blows and the filming of Breathless, he shot his first feature film, L’Eau à la bouche, produced by Pierre Braunberger, which was released the following year and is considered, alongside Le Cœur battant (1961) and La Maison des bories (1970), his most successful film.
After the death of Lady Henriette, the three young heirs, Miléna, Séraphine and Jean-Paul, are summoned by a lawyer to the deceased’s baroque château in Céret (Pyrénées-Orientales). However, Robert, Séraphine’s boyfriend and a friend of Jean-Paul, pretends to be the latter (who is late in arriving) to seduce Miléna. Meanwhile, the clumsy butler César (Michel Galabru) woos the young maid Prudence, who discovers the real identity of Robert, while Séraphine courts the attention of the lawyer. Echoing to some extent Musset’s On ne badine pas avec l’amour, Doniol-Valcroze orchestrates a riotous dance that glides along on sentiments with grace and lightness in the sensual atmosphere of the Midi region and in the labyrinthine and enchanted rooms of the château, the ideal setting. The female characters (played by the brilliant Françoise Brion, Bernadette Lafont and Alexandra Stewart) are given centre stage, as would become common in his subsequent films, bringing out their charm, mischief and beauty. A crucial part of the film’s mood is the Serge Gainsbourg song “Je t’en prie, ne sois pas farouche / Quand me vient l’eau à la bouche” (“Please do not be shy when my mouth waters”).