“A dress for Mrs. Harris”, clash of cultures avenue Montaigne

A dress for Mrs. Harris**

by Anthony Fabian

French-Canadian film, 1 h 56

Ada never stops waiting for the return of her husband, who disappeared in combat ten years earlier. In the London of the 1950s still marked by conflict, she earns her living as a cleaning lady, always conscientious and immensely helpful. She supplements her meager income with sewing.

At a client’s, she discovers the sublime Dior dress that she will put on for her daughter’s wedding. Overwhelmed by so much beauty and know-how, Ada sets out to raise the 500 books needed to buy it. Surprising strokes of luck earned her enough money to go to Paris and afford the dress of her dreams.

The Dress of Mrs. Harris grieves and rejoices. On the annoyance side, a hastily knitted postcard Paris; garbage is strewn across the capital due to a garbage collectors’ strike because France would be a country where “the worker is the king”. Isabelle Huppert borders on the grotesque in the role of embittered Claudine Colbert, Christian Dior’s right arm; she does her best with raised eyebrows and looks of disgust to drive Mrs. Harris who clashes in these prestigious places.

Despite the clichés, the magic happens

On the side of pleasure, provided you do not fear good feelings, comes the tender tale where a modest woman, failing to allow herself to look at men other than her deceased husband, falls in love with a dress of high sewing. Lesley Manville gives flesh to an unfailing determination and a charming candor that abolishes all obstacles between Ada and the object of her desires, starting with her social condition.

Shot in partnership with Dior, the film sometimes flirts with infomercials. But the magic happens: the parade attended by Mrs. Harris in the prestigious buildings of the avenue Montaigne captivates by its models, taken with two exceptions from the collections of the house. Admittedly, the scenario inspired by Paul Gallico’s novel does not have the depth of that of Phantom Thread by Paul Thomas Anderson (where Lesley Manville played the austere sister of the couturier played by Daniel Day-Lewis) who already evoked the clash of classes and cultures in haute couture, but the creations turn out to be infinitely more bewitching.

Good fairy, Ada dispenses her benefits to the models, the little hands of the workshop, the accountant and even the terrible Claudine Colbert. Despite its flaws, we are grateful to A dress for Mrs. Harris to lightly reconcile a charm so british and a certain French elegance.


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