Christine Eliacheff

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The Flower Of Evil Review


Weak
Cranking out a movie a year, Claude Chabrol is having a serious case of Woody Allen syndrome. The best thing Woody could do right now is take a break for a few years to recharge his batteries. As for Chabrol, he's been kicking around the same stately, even-handed, vaguely perverse thrillers for about 30 years (and none of his popular works ever got as good as his nasty 1969 psychodrama Le Boucher). He once again sets a moderately pleasing ambiance, in an upscale house in France's Bordeaux region, where a family keeps closely guarded secrets. As the secrets gradually come to light, one becomes aware that Chabrol is a mechanical storyteller more than an emotional one. One comes to doubt his economy of cinematic language as the last refuge of the detached and unemotional.

But The Flower of Evil remains pleasing to watch, mostly because of an attractive cast. Francois (Benoît Magimel) returns home to father Gérard (Bernard Le Coq) and stepmother Anne (Nathalie Baye). It's not long before he's set his eyes on stepsister Michèle (Mélanie Doutey), and they try to keep a lid on their boiling-over passions. They don't want skeletons coming out of the closet during Anne's mayoral campaign. But not everyone sees it that way: A telegram arrives with insidious content, and the family worries that more secrets will come out that will make their children's tête-à-tête seem minor in comparison. Enlisting their clever Aunt Line (a delightful Suzanne Flon), the children attempt to protect themselves and, if possible, cause trouble for the hateful, lustful, blandly disgusting Gérard.

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