Film Club Monthly: La Rupture

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I came to Claude Chabrol’s 1970 drama-thriller LA RUPTURE with little advance knowledge, having seen a pretty sparse smattering of Chabrol movies, and knowing nothing of the plot beyond the words “divorce drama.” Which is quite a good approach if you want to be blown away.

I guess this means that people who haven’t seen the film shouldn’t read this. Maybe read far enough to get excited, then run out and buy it before I spoil everything.

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The opening, of course, is a shocker. Like a very very compact version of THE SHINING — Stephane Audran’s husband, the disturbingly-faced Jean-Claude Drouot, even does the “crazy Kubrick stare” a decade before Jack Nicholson displayed it so memorably. The domesticity in the first couple of shots has a nervous, unstable quality, sparked into edginess by Chabrol’s zippy pans and quick cuts. Then — total violence! Drouot’s half-throttling of Audran is abrupt and startling enough, but the child-hurling incident is practically unprecedented, barring Bergman’s THE VIRGIN SPRING. And then Audran fights back with kitchenware, bludgeoning hubby into submission with deadly Gallic efficiency.

Horror movie titles appear over the fast traveling shots that take Audran and her fractured son to the hospital, accompanied by Chabrol regular composer Pierre Jansen’s galumphing musique concrete score. The slasher calligraphy clashes with the documentary street photography in exactly the way Chabrol’s elements of naturalism and stylisation clash throughout the movie.

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My Chabrol problem: I don’t like his zoom-happy camerawork in the 60s and 70s, although I like all kinds of zooms in others’ hands. I also don;t find the look of this film very pleasing, but I suspect the yellow-green pall  suffusing it is down to fading film stock. Why would you want a film to look like that? Chabrol’s interior design is also mildly suspect — I know it’s 1970, and I know a lot of the action takes place in a down-at-heel hotel, but there are still pleasing aesthetic choices available… but movies like TEN DAYS’ WONDER and ALICE show that CC has more than one string to his bow, and I’m actually learning to like what he does in his more typical films.

The plot, set in violent motion before the credits have even rolled, now settles into a quasi-naturalistic tone, lulling us to expect a slightly more normal divorce drama. Drouot, we learn, is a struggling writer (shades of Jack Nicholson again) whose mind has been derailed by drugs (Chabrol seems to have odd ideas about drugs; I don’t think he’s very experienced in that department — the nature of Drouot’s addiction is quite unclear, but drug-induced psychosis is at least credible: the psychedelic trip later on is less so). He’s now back in the care of his monstrous rich parents, who wish to win custody of their battered grandson from Audran, whom they despise because she was once a stripper and now works as a barmaid.

I think the film’s class-war aspect could have been raised a bit had someone other than the unswervingly elegant Mrs Chabrol played the lead. A smart, powerful working-class woman is a rarity, so it’s a shame to see the part played by someone who seems so bourgeois. But maybe that’s part of the point — Audran’s parents-in-law misunderestimate her from the start, and thus set in train a lethal chain of events that gradually tip the film from the approximately realistic into the bizarrely melodramatic. Which is a good thing, in this case, you understand.

Michel Bouquet, as dad-in-law, makes the mistake of hiring Jean-Pierre Cassel, the son of a former business partner Bouquet has ruined, to find evidence that will make Audran look bad in court so he can take her son away. Cassel’s antipathy to his new boss is a handy red herring, for as his job gradually entails more and more dirty work, we wonder if he will at some point back off and betray his boss. In fact, the opposite happens, with Cassel preparing an outrageously nasty scheme that’s far beyond anything Bouquet would have asked him to do (although Cassel deduces, probably correctly, that his employer will be happy  with any crime as long as he gets the result he’s after).

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Cassel’s big scheme only starts ticking along after the film has been going for some time, and Chabrol prepares for it by undercutting his realistic locations, sound, and central performances, with wild fantasy characters, who seem to have been hammered into slots in the naturalistic storyline, bent all out of shape but still retaining their too-vivid colours. The three old ladies at Audran’s boarding house reminded me of the three spinsters in Mamoulian’s LOVE ME TONIGHT. Rather than weaving a tapestry like the Fates, they play with Tarot cards. The unemployed actor (Mario David) is a strolling tragedian hammier than any sketch-show caricature, whose every line reading threatens to blow the set walls down. Intriguingly, he gets more low-key as the story progresses, revealing authentic human qualities hidden beneath the bombast and bluster. Indeed, one of the narrative’s surprise delights is the gradual revelation of a world of goodness struggling along in what had seemed an irretrievably fallen universe. The nastiness established early on is such that nice young men like Audran’s doctor and lawyer never seemed quite trustworthy, but they turn out to be just as honest as they tried to appear.

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For me, the trickiest unreal character was, not the balloon-seller (a nod to Fritz Lang’s M?) but the landlady’s handicapped daughter Emilie. Apparently a young woman, but dressed as a little girl, she’s played by Chabrol fave Katia Romanoff in a manner that seems more mime-show than observation. She wears unattractive glasses, but where you might expect thick lenses (since brain damage is often accompanied by poor vision) they have ordinary glass. Everything about her is unconvincing — she’s no particular type of “mentally handicapped person,” as Drouot is no particular type of drug addict. I was never entirely comfortable with her, but I think she probably does work in the context of the other unreal elements.

Anyhow, she’s central to Cassel’s crazy plan, which only starts unfolding after a lot of what could be flat exposition, but which is put across with weird jolting flair by Chabrol. Audran tells her lawyer of her past on a tram ride, with frequent cutaways to the trolley pole sparking on the overhead power line, and the view out the front window of oncoming street, with an eerie reflection of the driver’s hand clutching the dead man’s switch. (All tram terminology pulled out of thin air.)

“Do you like films in which someone says, ‘Let’s go to the beach!’ and then we cut to the beach?” Chabrol once asked an editor. The implication is that HE doesn’t like that — but he does it all the time here. I’ve always found it a prosaic but highly efficient way to propel action forward while maintaining clarity. Certainly Chabrol’s direct cutting (associated with nouvelle vague cinema but very common in Duvivier also) adds welcome zip to his long and winding narrative, which has to divert into side-stories about Cassell and his constantly naked girlfriend, Audran’s landlady and her alcoholic husband and daughter with learning difficulties, and the dastardly in-laws’ legal proceedings.

The plan: Cassell, having tried and failed to find evidence that will discredit Audran, and faked up a lot of general gossip against her character, suddenly takes the plunge into overt criminal depravity with a scheme which will involve fraud, kidnapping, theft, and sexual assault. His giggling slut of a girlfriend (a borderline misogynist cartoon, except Chabrol wins points for Audran’s strong character, and the grim-faced but honest landlady, and anyway, such persons do perhaps exist — American readers won’t have heard of Danielle Lloyd, and maybe in a few years none of us will have, God willing) is happy to take part in all of this, and moments where Cassell looks like he might be having second thoughts are pure red herring. In fact, he’s an expert at compartmentalizing: when he’s with Audran, his affection for her seems real, and may in fact be so. But it’s not going to stop him destroying her.

What’s so great about Audran is that she’s never dumb, she never lets the audience down by falling for something we wouldn’t fall for. In fact, given the slightest grounds for suspicion, she’s instantly alert, and she’s totally strong-willed and unwilling to compromise where she knows she shouldn’t. She’s so much smarter than we would be, I suspect only the fact that we’re given so much more information than her allows us to keep up. And this is incredibly unusual in thrillers.

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Analysed coldly, Cassell’s plan is preposterous and bound to miscarry, but the film keeps us off-balance with its crazy storybook characters and blasts of realism that genuine suspense is created. Even if Cassell screws up completely, he could still get Audran killed, or someone else, or in any number of ways destroy all prospect of a happy ending.

Chabrol manages to create an edgy, uncertain happy ending, amid a flourish of psychedelic solarized imagery, flying balloons, and hokey homicide. The cartoon characters all act out of character, breaking through into a third dimension after two hours of silly caricature, and Cassell’s defeat is both satisfying and awful. The whole movie strikes me as a brilliant balancing act, one that involves crossing a high-wire not by walking or unicycling, but on a pogo-stick, wearing a suit of armour and flippers. It’s such a grotesque and peculiar display that Chabrol can even get away with the occasional misstep, since who’s to say such stumbles are not part of the act?

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Suggestions are now open for more Chabrol I should be seeing! He’s made 69 films, the awful bastard, and while I might not be willing to make next year Chabrol Year on Shadowplay, I’m very keen to see more.

Questions:  who does Flemish surrealist Harry Kumel play? I know what he looks like but I couldn’t spot him. Is he in the satanic porno?

What is the connection to Murnau’s SUNRISE?

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59 Responses to “Film Club Monthly: La Rupture”

  1. I have always found La Rupture extremely unsettling. The audience is led to believe that the denouement of the film will be the outcome of the custody hearing, but instead, on the morning it is to take place, the mother who has fought so steadfastly to hold on to her child, wanders around a park in a psychedelic haze, all thoughts of the hearing seemingly forgotten. It’s the film’s lack of interest in the boy’s fate that I find most disturbing. Or have I totally misinterpreted something along the way?

    I’m also unconvinced by Stephane Audran’s well groomed appearance. Even allowing for the general superiority of Frenchwomen in this respect, I doubt whether anyone, apparently without qualifications, and who has worked as a stripper and barmaid to support her family, could afford to look that fabulous. And as you say, the issue of class might have been more interestingly dealt with if she had not looked so much like a catwalk model.

  2. David, Harry Kumel plays the taxi driver who takes Hélène from the airport to see her husband Charles who is being “cared for” by his parents.
    The obvious connection with Murnau’s Sunrise is the famous tram ride that is one of the highlights in Sunrise. Thematically, I think the connection with Sunrise is the immense difficulty of marital relationships, or of any close or intimate relationship. As Kris Kristofferson sings, ‘the loving was easy, it’s the living that’s hard’.

    For me, one of the great things the film describes is the fragillity of the pysche when it is exposed to truauma or great pressure. How, if someone is vulnerable enough, they can develop a pyschosis if the circumstances conspire towards it.

    I also like the way Chabrol balances good and evil, and how goodness, at the end of the day, does seem to outweigh evi.

  3. That song from Kris Kristofferson:

  4. Good connection between Chabrol and Kubrick. I agree with that similarities with “The shining” which I always have thought is Kubrick´s best film.
    It´s about time for “Les Godelureaux” to be released on DVD

  5. While I’m not at all familiar with Chabrol’s films, I thought I recognized Stephane Audran, and I did. Ten years after she starred in this she played second female lead to Isabelle Huppert in Tavernier’s COUP DE TORCHON, as Philippe Noiret’s corrupt, sleazy wife (she openly carries on an incestuous relationship with her handsome but dim-witted brother). While still attractive, she didn’t quite fit the runway model mold at this point, a little too full-figured. I’m unable to catch up with LA RUPTURE, just as I’ve yet to catch up with Chabrol in general. One of these days…

  6. david wingrove Says:

    LA RUPTURE was the first Chabrol film I ever saw. I was totally blown away by every aspect: the visuals, the music, the tortuous plotting as well as the icily elegant Stephane Audran. Years passed, and I have to say I’m not a huge Chabrol fan in general (I find his work cold and remote) but this film still holds a special place in my heart.

    Judy, I take your point totally about Audran’s oh-so-immaculate appearance – but I just don’t think French actresses can ‘do’ unkempt. Think of poor Catherine Deneuve trying to impersonate a Midwestern factory worker in DANCER IN THE DARK. They strip off her make-up, dress her in thrift-shop clothes, comb her hair backwards…but she STILL looks like she’s stepped off the front cover of Vogue!

  7. I suspect Chabrol would have preferred an actual little girl, rather than a child-like adult, to be seduced by Catherine Rouverel (a Renoir discovery who recently turned up in Rivette’s Va Savoir)

    Peter gets it re Murnau.

    As for Audran looking so great, you should see the hookers in the lusher quarters of Paris. They’re all decked out in Yves Sain-Laurent. (And for more on the smae see the late great Jean-Claude Guiget’s Foubourg St. Germain with Francoise Fabian.)

  8. Perhaps the most moving and heartbreaking scene in the film occurs in the Régnier’s house, when Mme. Régnier, Charles’ mother, watches as Charles and his wife make desperate and forlorn attempts at communication and understanding. Powerful stuff.

  9. The issue of money, and how that colours the interactions between people, seems to me one of the absolutely critical themes of the film – not quite to the extent of, say, Une Affaire de femmes, but it’s still extraordinary the way so many of the different relationships are monetized, or how the characters talk and think about their finances. The disparity of income levels between the Régnier family and those around them obviously creates some of that tension, but almost everyone is worried about money (except for those who are either oblivious through drink or who have a mental handicap); it even comes up in interactions with the balloon man.

    I was also struck by the way in which Chabrol’s editing choices affected my sense of the film’s space. There was some discussion – preview discussion, naturally – of the way in which Hitchcock makes use of space in Dial M For Murder here recently, and La Rupture makes for an instructive contrast. Other directors might have made something quite different of the space of the boarding house, but I found that I had a very hard time figuring out how all of the rooms connected because of the rhythm of the edits; they serve to advance the action very rapidly, which is often a good thing, but I wasn’t sure where each separate room lay in relation to the previous one. There’s one sequence where Jean-Pierre Cassel moves from the ground floor to the interior of his room within a single cut, which underlines the drama of the situation – he’s rushing around at breakneck speed trying to keep his plan on the rails – but which makes it impossible to figure out the architecture of the place!

    I think your comments – David C. – about Katia Romanoff’s portrayal of Emilie are very much on the money; she doesn’t resemble anyone from most of our experiences of life, and seems more of a “type” than a real person (an exaggerated type at that), and ultimately that portrayal made her come across as surprisingly unsympathetic – to me – considering how she is used and abused.

  10. Re: ugly 1970’s aesthetics: Stephane’s blue room at the boarding house is pretty nifty, but we don’t see much of it.

    The zooms, pans and drug trip make me think Brian De Palma could do the remake. I get the feeling that Chabrol is going for real crazy visuals at times, but the music usually ends up crazier than the picture.

    True the ending is awfully odd – she’s left sitting in the park missing her trial – but I think it’s safe to say the husband won’t be getting custody once certain facts come to light.

    Not sure if I buy the Murnau-tram connection. It reminded me as much of Sunrise as of Cleo From 5 To 7, Secret Defense or any other movie with a long train ride.

    I’ve been recently obsessed with Agnes Varda’s Le Bonheur, which stars Rupture’s drug-damaged husband Jean-Claude Drouot. In Rupture, his mom is Marguerite Cassan, who appeared in Renoir’s Picnic on the Grass, which inspired Le Bonheur.

    I checked out the DVD commentary by three guys whose names I didn’t catch. They giggle a lot whenever there’s food onscreen, talk about defied narrative expectations, harp on the three card-playing women representing the Fates, and often use variations of the phrase “one of the most ___ ___ in the history of cinema.”

    Commentary: “This is almost a caricature of a retarded girl. This has no basis in naturalism whatsoever. The existence inside this house is an existence on a different plane in a different style. This is a horror movie, it’s just a very strange, muted…” Their comment brings to mind Celine & Julie Go Boating (more so than the actual film does).

    I enjoyed the movie, but still not overly impressed with Chabrol, especially compared to the run of Varda movies I’ve been watching this month. Got his “Alice” on deck, which is said to be nuttier than this one.

  11. Peter: I loved that shot too. Even out-of-focus in the background you can tell Charles’ mother is looking desperately sad.

    Gareth: The confusing sequence with Cassel rushing around – I assume that’s the one near the end when he’s trying to get his framing plot back on rails? While he’s sneaking around, one of the three women says “Oh there’s Mr. Thomas. I didn’t even see him go out.” – which I thought was funny because I couldn’t tell where he’d just been.

  12. Cleo is closer to Sunrise than Secret Defense is. Rivette’s a whole ‘nother ball o wax.

    It’s not simple the presence of a tram but the way the use of it changes the dramatic atmosphere.

  13. ———————–
    I loved that shot too. Even out-of-focus in the background you can tell Charles’ mother is looking desperately sad.
    ———————–
    Brandon, I agree. The scene speaks volumes about the contradictions and complexites that comprise love and relationships.

  14. There are some nice moments of dry humour, as when the doctor returns to the boarding house and asks the assembled group, “what’s going on. Is it a conspiracy?”

  15. Thanks everyone! Just back from work.

    Agree that the scene of Drouot’s mother watching her son and daughter-in-law is very moving, especially as she’s been a subsidiary figure, generally supportive of her awful husband, up until now. It’s humane to give her this grace note so that her death is more tragic.

    Safe to say Drouot won’t be getting custody because he’s dead. Plus his mum’s dead. So I think Audran has won without turning up to the custody hearing. Her father-in-law will be destroyed by what’s happened, and there’ll be nobody to lie about her.

    What really works in the boarding house is the implausible variety of decor, which means we always know whose room we’re in, even if we can’t see how they connect. Essential for the clear progress of the plot. I was reminded of Rivette a little here, especially the ghost room in L’Histoire de Marie et Julien.

    I couldn’t work out if Emilie’s apparent enjoyment of her sexual abuse was a sick joke or what. The joke is essentially on Cassell, I guess, who has woefully underrated her understanding of events. As he underestimates Audran.

    I would imagine French prostitutes are able to make a lot more money than barmaids, so Yves St Laurent doesn’t surprise me, but Audran’s bourgeois sang-froid does.

  16. No they’ve got that too.

    VIVE LA FRANCE!

  17. Jesus, I wonder if this movie actually influenced Kubrick. The Shining seems to owe something to The Exorcist and something to Last Year at Marienbad. Kubrick seems to have always sought to follow the box office record-breakers, but to imbue his versions with all the artistry he could muster.

  18. I’m not a Chabrol expert by any means, but I recently watched 2006’s Comedy of Power and found it quite satisfying in a comfy old shoe sort of way.

  19. Even with the washed-out colours of the version I saw, Jean-Claude Drouot’s face is alarmingly pale, incidentally: I found his presence onscreen more unsettling than anything else in the film. I was at our local art museum on Friday, just after I’d seen the film, and I was really struck by Delacroix’s painting The Entombment of Christ, where Christ’s body is washed of almost all colour in an otherwise quite vibrant canvas; it seemed to me as though there was something similar at work in La Rupture.

  20. He’s definitely a freaky presence. I don’t know what’s more diturbing, him, or his parents’ insistence on blaming his wife and acting as if he were normal.

  21. It’s especially unsettling if you’ve seen Drout in Varda’s Le Bonheur and Tony Richardson’s Laughter in the Dark.

    Kubrick might well have seen it.

  22. Well, “The exorcist” + “L´anée dernier á Marienbad” seems a good combination too. You can add Buñuel´s final french films, Jean Luc Godard, Nicholas Roeg, Spielberg…

  23. …maybe even The Rules of the Game too.

  24. I don’t think the film wants to explore class. It takes the form of a parable of good and evil, and in that context class analysis would be difficult at best.

    When the film was released in NYC, Sarris’s review noted that Audran “ends up soaring into the stratosphere of her own impregnable virtue.” The film wouldn’t be as great without the considerable ambiguity of her detachment from reality at the end.

  25. Class is forced on the film as an issue by the father-in-law’s attitude to Audran. If his objections to her were based on something else, class could be excluded completely. But maybe Audran’s odd casting as a barmaid can be attributed to the same strategy that makes so many of the other boarding-house residents so strange.

    I keep imaging Bardot in the role, but that’s hard to visualize too.

    I liked the ending — it doesn’t quite satisfy fully our desire for a happy ending, but it gives us most of what we need to assemble our own.

  26. David, thanks for profiling this film – at my provocation, of course. Glad it sparked discussion, and hopefully it will inspire some to explore the film – and Chabrol – further.

  27. Tony Williams Says:

    When first released in England on the heels of LE BOUCHER, it received unfavorable reviews, but this film has been unjustly neglected and thanks also for David C for bringing another forgotten gem to our attention.

  28. Haven’t seen LA RUPTURE, haven’t gotten hold of a print yet. That said,

    ————————
    Chabrol’s interior design is also mildly suspect — I know it’s 1970, and I know a lot of the action takes place in a down-at-heel hotel, but there are still pleasing aesthetic choices available…
    ————————-

    What I find interesting about his films is the tawdry aspect of the settings. LES BONNES FEMMES is a disturbing and scary film but it is set in one of the most banal milieus in French society. The same with LES BICHES where the St. Tropez society that it portrays feels very vulgar and banal. Being from a country with a middle-class possessing the most shameful bad taste in history, I identify with Chabrol’s view of middle-class life more than any other French director.

    Sorry I have been out of touch. Late monsoon showers conked out my internet the whole of the weekeend.

  29. Welcome back! La Rupture isn’t quite as dowdy as that, or at least the settings have a lurid quality to them. Cassell’s apartment is a porn-decorated dump in which his constantly naked girlfriend appears like a walking piece of pornography that’s peeled off a wall. The boarding house is naturalistic bit by bit, but overall the clash of styles from room to room is surreal, and as people have already observed, you can’t make sense of the geography of it all.

    Alice is completely nuts and truly fascinating. Sylvia Kristel starts off on a quest for self-determination as a woman and stumbles into Chabrol’s enclosed, malevolent fantasy world. I don’t have the slightest idea what he’s “trying to say” but it’s all very creepy and unlike anything else in his work.

  30. david wingrove Says:

    Believe it or not, LA RUPTURE is a relatively good-looking film for Chabrol in the 70s. There was one a few years later called LES NOCES ROUGES, where the costumes and decor were so gratuitously hideous that I just couldn’t bear to watch it to the end. Give me Franco Zeffirelli any day!

  31. Chabrol seems to be going posh recently. Check out MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT set in Switzerland, it’s very luxurious looking and the cast wear great dresses. LA FILLE COUPE EN DEUX, his remake of THE GIRL IN THE RED VELVET SWING is also set in a very posh world. MERCI… which has Isabelle Huppert at her most Isabelle Huppert is one of his best films and a masterpiece of this decade.

    Among his early films, BETTY, his last film with Stephane Audran deals with the world of the upper classes but the beginning is set in a tawdry bar and it’s environs.

  32. Betty is about alcoholism — in a way that’s never been put on the screen before. Audran doesn’t play a sloppy or broken down drunk a la Susan Hayward. She’s a vert chic woman whochecks herself into a hotel to calmly drink herslef into oblivion. The late, great Marie Trintignant co-stars.

  33. david wingrove Says:

    Glad somebody has finally mentioned BETTY! I think it may be Chabrol’s finest film…with the exception of the magnifcently mad ALICE, which barely looks like a Chabrol film at all.

  34. Great suggestions for me to follow up — I’m definitely psyched to see more Chabrol now. I have Merci Pour le Chocolat, but am even more keen to experience Betty and La Fille Coup en Deux. The true case of The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing had peculiar aspects (including shades of Polanski!) which the Fleischer movie simply couldn’t look at.

  35. The only thing I remember seeing Drouot in before is a few episodes of Thierry la Fronde on some French TV station; that’s a pretty startling transformation. And I agree, what makes him even weirder is the way his parents seem to think he’s perfectly normal. The scene where he and Audran cling to each other late on – the mother watching in the background – is extraordinary, as Charles’s emotions churn.

  36. The Charles Sandford case was the Polanski story of the day. The nutter who whacked him on public display got a light sentence because of his connections and a trial where they paraded Sandford’s many love affairs as defence/justifications.

    Chabrol’s film is a perverse but oddly compassionate take on the subject. The Sandford guy is now a novelist, litterateur who has the poshest country house you can imagine with a delectable wife and his rival/assassin is played by Benoit Magimel(who looks like a young blonde DeNiro in the movie) as a spoilt rich kid numb with neo-puritanism. The title refers to his idea that a man can be broken apart of his power and strength and fall to pieces whereas a woman can still survive intact.

  37. How Kino’s Betty dvd qualitywise?

    I’m yet to jump into the world of Chabrol (where to start!), would La Ceremonie or L’enfer be good introductions?

  38. Probably La Ceremonie would be better, I don’t think L’Enfer (his filming of an unmade Clouzot script) is meant to be one of his best. The late 60s ones with Audran mostly have very high reputations too.

    And I’m very keen on the wild and woolly Ten Days Wonder, with Perkins and Welles.

  39. Dan Sallitt Says:

    I actually think LA CEREMONIE is a dandy place to start. L’ENFER less so, though I like it.

  40. François Cluzet, one of my favourite actors, gives a great performance in L’ENFER.

  41. david wingrove Says:

    LA CEREMONIE is among the best of late Chabrol. Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire and (more surprisingly) Jacqueline Bisset are all utterly superb, and the film improves considerably on the Ruth Rendell source novel A JUDGEMENT IN STONE.

  42. The delightful Marie Bunel talks about Chabrol and his latest film BELLAMY:

  43. I’m very excited about this new documentary which uses Clouzot’s footage from his abortive version of L’Enfer. Lots of stylish pop art visuals of Romy Schneider, anticipating Clouzot’s final psychedelic freak-out in the brilliant La Prisonniere.

  44. david wingrove Says:

    Has that actually been rediscovered? Sounds much better than the Chabrol film…which I thought was kind of a yawn.

  45. They always knew where it was, it was in a bank vault, tied up by the expenses incurred in shooting an incomplete movie. Claire Clouzot always hoped it’d be shown, then Chabrol’s film came and went and kind of delayed that possibility. Now they’ve found a way to make it pay for itself by making a documentary around it. But Lord knows when we’ll get to see it.

  46. Here’s a clip from Clouzot’s L’ENFER. It’s interesting that the main character in the film is a jealous guy called Marcel. Given that his last film was intitled La prisonnière, there would seem to be a Proust connection:

  47. I saw the Bromberg doc on Clouzot at Toronto; it’s also at the NY Film Fest, so I think it will get out in the world a little. Can’t say I cared for Bromberg’s intrusive approach, but the footage is certainly interesting. Apparently Clouzot had a budget for experimentation and shot a whole lot of visual effects in the spirit of exploration – no telling what would have made it into the finished film.

  48. david wingrove Says:

    Wow, that was truly sensational! Thanks! Romy Schneider playing with a slinky is one of the most perverse sights I’ve seen in many a long year.

    For me, Romy Schneider was a rather dull young woman (those ghastly and interminable SISSI films!) who grew charismatic and fascinating as she edged into middle age. The test footage from L’ENFER is maybe one of the first signs of just how compelling she would become.

    As my dear late friend Lawrie Knight used to reminisce: “Ah, Romy Schneider. She was a lesbian, you know…”

  49. It would be interesting to see Romy Schneider in Pierre Granier-Deferre’s LE TRAIN. It’s based on a great Simenon novel.

  50. Almost all internet references to Chabrol are about his films from 1959 to about 1972, one from the late 70s, and L’enfer/La ceremonie in the mid-90s onwards to today.

    If you’re interested in doing something fairly original you could review some of Chabrol’s work from the 80s. Poulet au vinaigre (Cop au vin) and Masques may not be as good as Le boucher or La femme infidele but they’re at least as interesting as his work over the past two decades.

  51. Masques is quite hard to get hold of — but I have a copy, as it happens… Remember the reviews of Poulet and it looked quite fun.

  52. david wingrove Says:

    I found LE TRAIN hugely disappointing. I’m a fan of both lead actors, but the film itself is a long ride to nowhere

  53. There’s probably about 50 I still haven’t seen!

  54. david wingrove Says:

    I’d say there’s a good reason for that. Chabrol is possibly the most wildly uneven ‘great director’ in film history (although John Huston may run him a close second) – a bamboozling mixture of genius and hack.

    His worst movies (BLOOD RELATIVES, THE BRIDESMAID) are all but unwatchable while his best (LES BICHES, ALICE) are literally impossible to stop watching.

    How can anybody explain that? It’s like Marcel Proust morphing occasionally into Jackie Collins. Utterly explodes the auteur theory, or any other theory you care to name.

  55. Blood Relatives was the first Chabrol I ever saw. Uneven is right, but it does have interesting things, including Donald Pleasence as a creepy kiddie-fiddler, his performance a pitch-perfect impersonation of his former collaborator Roman Polanski.

    I guess any artist can pull off that morphing thing if they stop caring about the project they’re engaged in (which seems to have been frequently the case with Huston) or if they accept some projects they shouldn’t (Huston again).

  56. david wingrove Says:

    Yes, but when a (sometimes) great craftsman slips below the level of even basic, bland competence…something very odd must be happening!

  57. Absenteeism, in the case of Huston. “Towards the end of the shoot, usually, he stops coming in,” Christopher Challis was told.

    The fact that Audran is dubbed in Blood Relatives suggests to me that the project was taken away from Chabrol, and that might account for some of the more glaring infelicities. I mean, it’s set in Canada so a French accent would have been acceptable.

  58. Dan Sallitt Says:

    BLOOD RELATIVES is actually a favorite of mine, though I haven’t seen it in years. And THE BRIDESMAID strikes me as the best post-CEREMONIE Chabrol, along with THE FLOWERS OF EVIL. Maybe we all see different highs and lows in Chabrol’s career.

  59. I suspect so. Apart from La Rupture, Alice and Ten Days Wonder are the ones I’ve enjoyed most, and they’re hardly typical. But I’m definitely inspired to investigate further.

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