Claude Chabrol

Claude Chabrol

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Gainsbourg Trailer

Parisian songwriter and director Serge Gainsbourg was a legend known all around the world, for many differing reasons his work was usually surrounded by controversy which was mostly welcomed by the man himself.

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A Girl Cut In Two Review

Quite a good portion of Claude Chabrol's tasty cocktail of romance and jealousy, A Girl Cut in Two, has gone by before you realize that, in essence, nothing much of consequence has happened. This is not a bad thing, and is more a testament to Chabrol's talent behind the camera that he's able to keep his film engaging well past the point that it should have any real right to be. It gives the film a certain drifting quality, even if one knows that something more momentous is waiting in the wings.

Chabrol, who also co-wrote the script with Cécile Maistre, based his story in some measure upon the sensational case of famous architect Stanford White's murder at Madison Square Garden's rooftop theater in 1906. A classic "murder of the century" case, the White murder had a plethora of salacious details for titillation, a number of which Chabrol cannily appropriates for his own scenario. Set in the present day in Lyon, A Girl Cut in Two seems at first like another portrait of an ennui-cloaked artiste, whose fame and fortune no longer excites him. Charles Saint-Denis (François Berléand, excellent in his understatement here just as he was in Tell No One) is an aging novelist of incomparable fame living the perfect life. He lives on a beautiful estate, is feted for his work almost nonstop, has a wife who doesn't appear to notice or care about his habitual flirting, and the money to do essentially whatever he wants. Being a famous novelist on the prowl, it doesn't take long for Saint-Denis to zero in on one of Lyon's most attractive single females, the quite young and innocently beautiful Gabrielle Deneige (Ludivine Sagnier).

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The Color Of Lies Review

Claude Chabrol's late-career films haven't been entirely inspired, but The Color of Lies is one of the standouts. It begins simply enough: A young girl has been raped and killed, and her creepy art teacher (Jacques Gamblin) is the number one suspect. He protests his innocence, and wife Sandrine Bonnaire stands by him. Meanwhile, other characters -- none of whom exactly exude compassion or likeability -- enter and exit, and the teacher looks increasingly innocent. But who's the killer? The sole lacking spot here is the dead fish of a police detective (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), who's ostensibly the hero of the film yet comes off as incompetent and bumbling at best. In fact, better casting all around could have elevated this film to a minor classic.

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The Swindle Review

There's no denying that Claude Chabrol is a master of the French thriller. But every once in awhile, even the best throw up a brick. The Swindle is workmanlike at best, a tired flick (Chabrol's 50th!) that even devoted fans will shrug their shoulders at.

Judging by the title and the con-game setup, we're on alert for twists from the very beginning: Betty (Isabelle Huppert) is seen with an obvious mark at a casino. Soon she's got him back in his hotel room, drugged, and lets in an older man who's been watching the pair. He turns out to be her partner Victor (Michel Serrault), and they take 1/3 of the mark's money (not so much that he'd miss it) and vanish back to their RV. These guys are small time and they know it. Nothing wrong with that, but while planning their next move, Betty decides to take a vacation. She and Victor reconnect a few weeks later at a mountain resort, and she's apparently got another swindle going with a wealthy man carrying 5 million Swiss francs in an attache case. Obviously Betty's going to make a play for it, but is Victor going to be in on the deal too? Or is he going to try to nab it all for himself?

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Madame Bovary Review

Claude Chabrol hasn't made many adaptations of classic literature, but he proves to have a capable, if stuffy, hand with Madame Bovary. Isabelle Huppert takes center stage as a poor gal who just wants to get ahead. She does so by marrying one Dr. Charles Bovary, who truns out to be a real drip. Driven by passion, she embarks on a series of affairs while taking on debt to pay for her finery, debt which eventually drives her to extreme measures. Huppert has an interesting take on the character, but the rest of the cast is rather staid. Typical period flourishes abound, too.

The Bridesmaid Review

At first glance, she doesn't seem like much -- maybe it's the dress. When Philippe (Benoit Magimel) -- the slim, self-satisfied, smart-but-stupid chump in Claude Chabrol's psycho-drama The Bridesmaid -- sees Senta (Laura Smet), a bridesmaid at his sister's wedding, he's intrigued by something in her direct stare and later, flirty brush-off. However, when Senta appears unannounced at the door of his mother's home (where Philippe, a mama's boy practically smothered by her constant compliments) a few hours later and then proceeds to strip off the wet dress and have her reckless way with him, he becomes positively interested. When later she starts in with all that talk about how they're fated for each other and, hey, what if they each committed a murder to prove their love, he remains interested because, well, he doesn't have much else going on in his life.

In Smet and Magimel, Chabrol has found willing partners for his bleak little tale -- like the director, they keep things under wraps, playing things close to the vest, which is harder than it may sound, given the high drama plot, taken from a Ruth Rendell novel. Philippe is a cipher straight from a detective story of years past, working as a numbers guy for a contractor in a small French town, he's completely bottled up inside his trim suits and slightly superior demeanor, just aching for something to come along and bust things up. After easing us into Philippe's life with some minor melodrama involving the three women in Philippe's house (mother, two sisters), Chabrol drops Senta in to knock Philippe out of his rut, and she's perfect for the job.

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L'Enfer Review

One of Claude Chabrol's finest films, giving us a marriage that at first looks fine. 100 minutes later, one of them is dead and the other one insane. And it's all due to jealousy. François Cluzet is excellent as a husband who's convinced his lovely wife (Emmanuelle Béart) is cheating on him, and eventually he becomes so enraged over this notion that he takes to handcuffing her to the bed. But the show belongs to Béart, who accurately portrays a woman torn by love for her husband and fear over his increasingly crazy actions.

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Pleasure Party Review

In 1975, Claude Chabrol got infatuated, somehow, with swingers, and working from a script from Paul Gégauff he turned in this weak entry into an otherwise very strong oeuvre. Pleasure Party's biggest failing can be found in Gégauff's script and Chabrol's choice of leading man: also Gégauff. The film isn't so much an investigation into unhealthy relationships as it is a platform for Gégauff to hear himself talk. Nothing much comes of this until the last five minutes of the movie -- and even the title's promise of a little cheap, tawdry carnality is nowhere to be found.

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Le Boucher Review

Written 20 years later, Le Boucher could have been a Danielle Steel book. The story follows a quiet French woman who begins an affair with the local butcher, just as locals begin turning up murdered. Is he the culprit or is she just paranoid? This theme's been done to death in years since, and Boucher doesn't add a whole lot to the experience. Stéphane Audran's heroine is hard to love, she's just so plain, and Jean Yanne's cigarette-toting villain/non-villain is smarmy but doesn't quite strike the right chord between good guy and bad. An interesting effort from Claude Chabrol, but not his best work.

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This Man Must Die Review

Possibly Claude Chabrol's finest work, a dark, moody, and endlessly compelling look at a hit and run that takes the life of a young boy. His father (Michel Duchaussoy), a writer of children's books, embarks on a crusade to find and murder the driver. Midway through the film, he finally does find his man, only to discover his family hates him just as much as our hero does! Capturing his violent thoughts in a diary, it becomes the only evidence against him when the deed is finally done -- but who really did the crime? It happens off camera, and the answer is vague. Two people end up confessing. We never quite found out who's telling the truth. Wrestling over it in your mind will give you a headache, but it's a pain that hurts good.

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Innocents With Dirty Hands Review

Claude Chabrol's meditation on infidelity and murder is creepy and cold, wholly owned by Romy Schneider as its near alien starlet. Dubbed in English, the film has Schneider's gorgeous wife in a loveless marriage to a husky American (Rod Steiger), who is not only free of emotion but impotent as well. A chance encounter draws her into a love affair with a younger man (François Maistre), and before 20 minutes of screen time are up, Schneider has coldly bludgeoned hubby to death while he sleeps. Or has she? I'm reminded of Diabolique, but from the guy's point of view. Sort of. The scenes with the police investigation are on the lame side, but the core of the film -- around Schneider's guilt and fear of the unknown future -- is an excellent freak-out.

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Les Biches Review

Claude Chabrol's elegant love story is nonetheless quite the bore, with its beautiful bisexual femmes (one named "Why") and lazy evenings in front of velvet curtains. Jacqueline Sassard's supervixen is quite the eye-catcher, but she's so dull in the role it's hard to get much energy out of her raw sexuality. Stéphane Audran's Frédérique is even more hollow, an aging trollop looking for love on the French Riviera, no matter who it comes from. Story? Forget it.... this half-assed "thriller" is about as thrilling as meat loaf. The conclusion is as uninspired as it is droll.

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La Cérémonie Review

Tireless French director Claude Chabrol returns to top form with the existential mind-scrambler La Cérémonie, a creepy and disturbing movie that gets under your skin from the very beginning. We know something bad is going to happen -- we just don't know what.

Sandrine Bonnaire (so memorable in East/West) plays a simple maid named Sophie -- so simple in fact that she doesn't know how to read. Hired on by an affluent family living in a large estate in a small town in the north of France, she proves herself an impeccable housekeeper. But when the man of the house calls home for her to fetch files off her desk or the matriarch hands her the shopping list, she invents excuses as to why they can't be done, all in an effort to hide her illiteracy.

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Story Of Women Review

Like any good Frenchman, Claude Chabrol had to tackle the German occupation at some point. How he did it, in 1988's unfortunately-titled Story of Women, is a matter of odd trivia. For his big WWII movie, Chabrol took up the issue of abortion.

Isabelle Huppert stars as Marie, an obviously oppressed housewife whose husband is off at war. Marie dreams of things far beyond possibility -- she lives in occupied France yet wants to be a professional singer -- but nothing is worse than the arrival of her husband (François Cluzet) back from the war, suffering from shell shock. This isn't a happy homecoming. This merely means another person to feed on limited rations -- and one who soils his shorts repeatedly.

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The Flower Of Evil Review

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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Claude Chabrol

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