1956's Elena and Her Men, the third in an informal trilogy of films Jean Renoir made upon returning from the U.S. and following his work here during the war, shares a common theme with its trilogy mates. This theme - the ways in which theater and life interact, and in which the territory of the first encroaches on the latter - in fact preoccupied Renoir throughout his career. In Elena and Her Men (unlike the other two films, The Golden Coach and French Cancan), the film's principals are not stage actors. Their performances are given in the political and social arenas; Renoir concludes the trilogy, fittingly, with the assertion that all the world is indeed a stage.
Elena and Her Men tells the story of the title woman, a Polish princess living a life of high style in Paris despite the secret fact of her poverty. She's widowed, and although men throw themselves at her, she's unfocused romantically and takes these suitors on as projects rather than potential mates; she sees her work as assisting them in achieving their potential, and when they do, she moves on. Her ability is linked to the daisies she distributes to her men as charms, and these magical daisies infallibly do the job.
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