Beatrice is a very reserved and quiet young woman. Her friend Marylene is left by her lover and brings her to Cabourg (Normandy) for a few days' vacation. There, Beatrice, an apprentice hairdresser, meets Francois, a middle-class intellectual. Francois becomes her first lover, but their social and cultural differences get in the way of happiness.(IMDB.com)
The student from Paris and his friends are intellectuals. He reads Le Monde. He is stamped by his background. The girl is in love with love. Everywhere she turns, there is love and passion evident, even through the hotel's thin walls. She only wishes to please and outwardly doesn't project herself as a self-regulated person. Her lower class background is clear before she goes on vacation where she meets the student. Although they stay in the same hotel, this is about the only thing they have in common beside the bed they share, but being removed from their normal lives just delays the obvious. Love is idyllic at first for everyone. She is hopelessly adrift among his friends in Paris and cannot communicate with them. This class based depiction is consistent with how many French view that one's birth divides a person from the other classes.
This film is about class, pure and simple. The shy Hubert comes from a lower class than her male lover. He can't accept her because she's not an intellectual like he is. He can't appreciate her quiet beauty because it is a nonverbal beauty, and he lives in a world of words and books.
Hubert's performance is wonderful.
As much as anything, it's probably the intriguing ambivalence of a narrative in which connections are never overtly made that turned this into an unexpected box-office hit. Where "A Girl from Lorraine" treads a clearcut feminist path, "The Lacemaker" lurks in more shady byways. Its heroine (beautifully played by Huppert as a passive object) seems less a candidate for women's lib than a helpless prisoner of the incommunicability Goretta had in mind when he defined the film as being about the problem between two people 'who are unable to love each other because they do not express themselves in the same way'. The refreshing quality of the film, as one listens to the expressive eloquence of its silences, is that it cannot be reduced to ideological terms. The heroine may be a victim of both social convention and a suave though sympathetic seducer, but with a mysterious inner radiance glowing behind her patient suffering, she is also much, much more.
I first watched "La Dentellière" in a festival-screening in early 80s. Then I watched it in theatres several times more and then I recorded it to a VHS-tape captured from a local-TV dubbed in my mother-tongue. My poor VHS-tape had been worn-out because of watching it hundreds of times… Yes this movie is one of my all-time-top-ten-movies.