The wealthy, recently widowed Christine de Guerande (Bell) ruminates on her youth after finding a dance card from her first ball at the age of 16. At loose ends, she sets out to track down each of her suitors from nearly 20 years before. Her search leads her on a revelatory journey, finding tragedy in the home of Thierry (Blanchar), a life of crime for the suave Pierre (Jouvet), and the priesthood for Alain (Baur). Returning home disappointed in the empty promises of the past, she discovers that happiness might have been on her doorstep all along.
Duvivier’s poetic meditation on lost love and regret unfolds in a series of episodes, each one with its own aesthetic style, all filmed with elegantly sumptuous camerawork. The power of memory is illustrated by a gorgeous slow-motion reverie of the 1919 ball that haunts Christine. Fernandel, as a happy-go-lucky hairdresser provides levity while Blanchar’s louche doctor evokes the pitch-black desperation of German Expressionism. Whimsical and thoughtful, this forgotten gem, a huge success in its time, deserves a revered place in the pantheon of French cinema.