Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#26 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:25 pm

Well now I need to see Le Scandale just to catch this finale!

The 60s Chabrols that I’ve seen beyond Les Bonnes Femmes, Les Godelureaux and Les Biches fluctuated in quality but even the best are not likely to make the top 20 (though I still need to see The Third Lover, of which I’ve heard great things):

Landru (1963): One of the better historical fiction serial killer biopics out there (a surprisingly common modern genre), with Chabrol keeping the dark comedy at a simmering boil, not overdoing it or taking it more seriously than necessary. Again he peers into the psychology of the killer and bourgeois, male cultural roles and ideologies simultaneously, with solid results. I’m not sure exactly what the purpose of inserting WWI footage into the story was, but my guess is to show the backdrop to the killings and imply a contextual degree of validation to Landru’s perspective that “life is just blood and fear” as he rationalizes and defends his actions (though there is another more straightforward significance of the war, and how it served as an opportune epoch for him to commit his crimes).

Ophelia (1963): A well-crafted meta-Shakespeare adaptation, this starts off taking on a noirish tone, down to the disjointed relationship between the individual and his environment (which I realize is par for the course in Chabrol’s oeuvre, but this one feels slightly more obvious) and then veers into territory more sad and twisted than your typical hard-boiled tale. Not sinister, but a careful look at the psychologically troubled and existentially nihilistic via surreal phantasmagoria as the film continues before reverting back to those noirish conventions at the end. I probably like this more than most, given a lot of lukewarm thoughts I’ve read on it, and it’ll be on the cusp of making my list.

Le Tigre aime a la chair fraiche (1964) and Le Tigre se parfume la dynamite (1965): Enjoyable spy spoofs that are complicated, ultra-ridiculous, and light enough not to put too much utility into expectations for them to be better. The second was far more exaggerated than the first, but it kind of has to be to warrant getting made at all! Worth seeing for any completists, die-hard fans interested in Chabrol’s trajectory, or those looking for a silly B-movie to throw on.

La Ligne de d'marcation (1966): There’s a lot to admire here about the way Chabrol tells this story. His form, pacing, and overall way he weaves scenes together leaves little to complain about, but it left me cold nonetheless. This is a film that’s all technique with little feeling, though it does spark cognitions in touching on one of Chabrol’s favorites themes of complex, relative morality via the actions of switching sides in a wartime conflict to service personal needs and desires. Not a bad film at all, but nothing memorable

La Femme infidile (1969): Perhaps I’ve just been plowing through too many Chabrol thrillers, but I wasn’t as affected by this as the general consensus. Chabrol has taken the themes and style he employs here to more polished and unique terrain in other works, but perhaps this is where that new context begins, as Chabrol’s style becomes calmer and less flashy here compared to his other 60s (and 50s) films. This would of course become the norm going forward as he stretched himself within that wheelhouse with less visible auteur touches than his peers, but clear fingerprints present everywhere for those who look. This is without a doubt a good film, but not deserving of the seemingly unanimous effusive praise when paired with other films in Chabrol’s oeuvre.

Que la bete meure (1969): Similar to La Rupture, this starts with a bang that shakes our nerves and then facilitates a methodical, cool-tempered, and detached film, yet not complacent. For a while we are continuously reminded of the emotions behind the actions and are invested in the vengeance plot, not because we are subjectively aligned with our protagonist’s emotions but because our cinematic desires are provoked through the mise en scène. Chabrol then throws a curveball when
SpoilerShow
our mystery is solved and we sit with the joke that the man responsible is such an asshole that it actually complicates our feelings.
We stray from any one-track path to revenge the average movie would take, to a complex meditation on the morality- or lack thereof - of revenge itself by giving us more reasons to dislike the culprit. By creating a three dimensional character and situation, though only adding more fuel to the fire, we ironically have less stake in the vengeance even if we dislike the character more! The way this film moves away from expectations is Chabrol at his most anticlimactic and also the potentially clearest exposition of his interests and intentions in how one can or should go about understanding other people and judging morality. Another movie I respect more than I like- but I did really like.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#27 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:29 pm

I think the war reminders in Landru are also there to justify why so many women threw themselves at a rather unpleasant and ugly man-- it's pretty much impossible to imagine someone like Juliette Mayniel willingly bedding Charles Denner's character unless one realizes he was one of the few viable options (or so it seemed) available for marriage-minded women

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#28 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:13 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:29 pm
I think the war reminders in Landru are also there to justify why so many women threw themselves at a rather unpleasant and ugly man-- it's pretty much impossible to imagine someone like Juliette Mayniel willingly bedding Charles Denner's character unless one realizes he was one of the few viable options (or so it seemed) available for marriage-minded women
Absolutely- that’s what I was attempting to indicate with my final sentence in parentheses
(though there is another more straightforward significance of the war, and how it served as an opportune epoch for him to commit his crimes)
though I realize how vague it is reading it back.

That’s a great point about how Chabrol highlights the unpleasantness of the character, which I hadn’t considered the significance of until now- but it absolutely accentuates the irony in the tale by exposing the juxtaposition of seeking a warm bond of love with- not only a duplicitous murderer, which isn’t so obvious- but an obnoxious dullard; qualities that are not exactly the romantic ideal!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#29 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:49 pm

If you're looking for a deeper appreciation of Chabrol's 60s films, you might try Robin Wood and Michael Walker's 1970 book on Chabrol for the Praeger Library, Claude Chabrol. Each alternates writing duties as they cover Chabrol's features through La boucher. It's beholden to the limits of the era (some of the films are only able to be discussed based on dubbed English prints), but some good and deep appreciations are there for all of Chabrol's feature films from 1958-1969 in a nice little hardcover book. I think I found a good copy on ABEBooks for $10 or so. As I recall, Guy Austin's book on Chabrol skips around a lot from this period, and James Monaco and Richard Neupert's Chabrol sections within their New Wave studies do as well to varying degrees, so this is probably the best bet for some immediate (and then-contemporary) thoughts on this period in Chabrol's filmography

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#30 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:46 am

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:27 am
L’Oeil du Malin Chabrol 1962

It is perhaps its lack of exposure in non-francophone countries that has resulted in Chabrol’s first intense intrusion into the bourgeois home slipping through the net of critical acclaim.
It is in fact a worthy candidate for entry into the ‘Helene cycle’ which would become the cornerstone of his late 60’s - ‘early 70’s dissection of the rapacity, cruelty and dissolution of bourgeois life. Not least in that Stephane Audran plays Helene, the object of desire and femme infidele of successful and esteemed German author Andreas
The film is dominated by the narration and totally subjective in the shape of a young mediocre writer / reporter who is similarly named André which couples him to the author whose position he wishes to usurp.
Initially it appears that we maybe being played as the victim of an unreliable source since his credentials are bogus. He has lied about his ability to speak German which has landed him the assignment of reporting on everyday life in a small Southern German town. Furthermore he goes under the pseudonym/pen-name of Albin.

Chabrol has spoken about being drawn to intrigue within the bourgeois family not only because of his familiarity with the milieu but of his intention of preferring to look at a small world under a bell-jar with a microscope rather than at the world through a telescope. Using Albin /André as his instrument he insinuates himself into the life of Helene and Andreas which appears idyllic, their relationship seemingly loving and mutually respectful .

Floundering in his alien environment Albin is rescued by french speaking Helene whilst shopping. Obviously attracted to her he is equally as infatuated with her household within a large stone walled mansion. He talks repeatedly of ‘penetrating ‘ the fortress in all of its connotations, the building, the marriage and naturally Helene herself.
Chabrol painstakingly films his progress stage by stage from peering through the grilles and cavities of the boundaries through to full-blown social acceptance into the bosom of the family.
Jealousy prevails urging Albin to dethrone the King and claim the Queen which erupts into full blown mania when he is humiliated by not admitting to his inability to swim during a boat party.
The quest for some form of incriminating evidence against Helene to unsettle Andreas leads to him stalking her with long lensed camera on her solo excursions into the nearby city. The immediacy of this footage is far more in line with NV norms of hand held camera amongst bustling streets and beer-fests and although probably determined by the low budget constraints works well in its stark contrast to the measured tones and compositions of the interiors.
The outcome of all these shenanigans is up there with top-notch Chabrol and not wishing to betray the plot any further I’ll leave it up to anyone else wishing to investigate to contrast and compare with his later work. However it is worth noting perhaps that one very bold move that he doesn’t to my knowledge re-create is the intensity of the narration and importantly how although totally framed within the contemporaneous action is related in the past tense, so that finally it seems that his mythic destiny compels him to forever tell the same story over and over again.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#31 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Jun 06, 2019 6:42 am

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:20 am
Dr M (1990) starts promisingly with some anti-Lang anti-sound bridging during a series of mass suicides, but the film is ultimately rather ugly and drab and cursed with a damned lead performance by some German guy who looks like Lorenzo Lamas in Renegade. Alan Bates threatens to save the film with his noble attempts to be as over the top as possible, especially late in the film when he dons a truly unforgettable disguise, but the film still doesn’t quite work.
"So much to do...so much to do...at Teratos. Time to go...time to go..."

It has been a couple of decades since I last watched Dr M, so I am probably wrong in the following write up, but I seem to recall the above matra-esque hypnotic delivery being delivered by the Jennifer Beals character from apartment building sized billboards, which might be perhaps the most laid back travel agent advert ever! I wonder if there is a bit of wry amusement there at the idea of inescapable advertising drilling itself into people's heads until they commit suicide! And also of the use of Beals early on as a beckoning figure from all the adverts, seeming to offer solutions to all of life's problems, until we meet her 'for real' and find out that she doesn't have any answers and it was just a job!

I seem to recall really enjoying the first half of the film with a style featuring both contemporary but with slight sci-fi touches to the world that were quite interesting, though I could not really buy Alan Bates as a contemporary, hip Eurotrash club MC (that seems like a role more tailor made for Udo Kier!) able to continue manipulating events post-death.

And I kind of found the last section of the film with the designer stubbled hero infiltrating the suspiciously shifty health club resort as less interesting than the early sections of inexplicable suicides out in the real world. It felt structured a bit like a James Bond film (and a bit Blade Runner influenced. Perhaps Dr M bears a bit of structural comparison to Steven Soderbergh's Kafka too) more than a Mabuse one (and makes Jennifer Beals' rather passive role more understandable as that of a 'Bond girl'), though I seem to also remember being quite amused for some reason by the way that the hero is immediately completely out of his element at the club, and spends much of the time running around only in a dressing gown!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#32 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:29 pm

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Les Cousins (1959)

A giant leap forward in quality from his first feature Le beau serge, correcting missteps in pacing, characterization, and story, this sophomore entry is one of Chabrol’s best and fiercest films. Emotions run high as Paul and Charles grapple with the task of balancing their ids and egos, and function in multiple societies at once, one academic supporting restraint via ego functions and one pleasurable supporting the dive into impulsive desires- which comes easier to one character than another. When you add the jealousy and other feelings that come about when in the presence of another person (here focusing on male to male competitiveness) breaking naive innocence in the wake of realizing that the word “fair” doesn’t belong in God’s vocabulary, you get a cocktail of inevitable pain and no chance at a win-win situation for all involved. Some say Chabrol is a cynic, but he’s not toying with his characters so much as bringing attention to human nature that is natural, relatable, and dangerous. Each audience will decide for themselves whether the third act veers too heavily toward Shakespearean extremism, but regardless of the drama this doesn’t feel like a cautionary tale- just as Chabrol never seems to intend to send a message of judgment. His films are meditations on how people are, how they operate amongst one another and within themselves emotionally and psychologically. Chabrol presents these themes for us to do what we want with them, by setting up an intriguing tale that invites us in with a big “welcome” sign to come hang out in a lively space with exciting characters, and then makes us sit with the series of images he throws at us until we’re conflicted over whether we want anything to do with them at all. This is a film that dazzles and comforts us until it provokes anxiety and leaves us cold, though this is not standard manipulation: these anxieties and discomforts are brought by us, not put upon us; they are our own.


A double tour (1959)

An impressive first entry into the crime film for Chabrol packs enough nuance and ulterior motives to shine a light of originality into the gaping hole of the classic whodunit mold. This film is as much a comedy as crime drama, and Chabrol is more interested in the natural suspense and humor that exists within interpersonal relationships in the family system than the actual crime itself; tension from human behavior rather than criminal behavior. Graciously lending his camera to spend more time on the characters’ banter, the comedy-drama line blurs, and Chabrol’s stylistic choices are inspiring as usual. Not every choice in pacing and editing worked for me here, and I didn’t particularly care about the characters or find them engaging. However, it was exciting to see the director’s experimentation in form as he worked to find his footing that led to a more confident outcome in his next feature Les Bonnes femmes. Ultimately I’m not passionate enough about this for it to make the final cut, but it’s a good movie and worth watching for contention in anyone’s list for this project.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#33 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:49 am

Rewatching Les Godelureaux and among the many cameos-- including a split second, blink and you miss it shot of Juliette Mayniel as a nun for some reason

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--I was tickled at the brief glimpse of the two scumbags from Les bonnes femmes, Jean Louis Maury and Albert Dinan, who appear to have reformed since the events of the previous film:

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Also on the revisit trivia beat, I'd never noticed Les bonnes femmes had a titular line-- the producer says it in reference to Audran when he's fitting her with the Italian wig, but it's not translated to reflect that!

Requisite Zardi Sightings:

Les bonnes femmes: Charlie Boston

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Les Godelureaux: Laughing cafe patron...

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...but I guess Brialy forgave and forgot, since he then gets invited to Brialy's orgy

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#34 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jun 08, 2019 7:19 pm

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Juste avant la nuit (1971)

This is different terrain for Chabrol in choosing not to focus on the psychology of the killer regarding what made him kill (and subsequent meditation on those emotional, societal and microsystemic factors) but instead entirely devoting his examination to the internal psychology and emotional processes that follow the act and their effect on such internal and external systems- a kind of reversal in approach. I relished spending this film sitting in moral ambiguity as our protagonist wrestles with his own feelings of guilt and what to do about them. The detail of the crime lends itself to this moral relativism in its accidental nature, and so it gives the viewer more room to refrain from engaging in the film with the weight of personal bias. The camera often frames the actors from a distance, objectively taking an omniscient viewpoint on the characters to remove any possibility of attempting to get inside their minds or hearts… until it does! In these moments we are allowed a brief opportunity, a rare offering from Chabrol, to read our protagonist’s thoughts as he contemplates admittance, grasping at straws for how to enact a confession or reparation that constitutes redemption, as well as any sign of meaning to explain an act rooted so deeply in cognitive dissonance. Michel Bouquet is remarkable here, delivering a performance so subtly moving (and drastically better than La Femme infidile), and the weight of the film hinges on its power. Stéphane Audran and François Périer also deliver terrific, realistic perfs as other affected parties to the crime by proxy, adding complex layers of perspective to a film so focused on one person’s crisis. Chabrol has never gone so full tilt in spending the duration of the film examining the deterioration of a man’s psychology following a crime- though I’m grateful to the lengths he went here, striking another original chord within a filmography of repetitive, nuanced themes. While this film is far more introspective than many of his works, Chabrol uses this tool to maintain his familiar desired result, but more effectively executed and emphasized here; forcing the audience to remain sober, swimming in sludgy morally grey waters, constantly uncomfortable and aware of the philosophical and psychological questions he is raising, and most importantly, the reality that the end of such a rabbit hole is void of any objective answers for existential satisfaction. One of my personal favorites.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#35 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:32 am

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Le Boucher (1970)

I’ve seen this film many times throughout the years, and while it didn’t wow me at first, it has grown on me each time to the point where I share a common perspective in viewing this has Chabrol’s magnum opus. This is a thematically complex film that I could spend all day attempting to dissect, peeling back onion layers til I’m blue in the face. A lot has already been written about this, with Ebert penning a pretty stellar, deliberately vague analysis that I won’t try to imitate. Compared to most of his other work, including his other celebrated masterpiece La Ceremonie, this is as dense as Chabrol gets, especially regarding relationship dynamics and what one seeks and needs in another, not romantically but psychologically.

The butcher talks about logic early on, trying to latch onto it as if he was still in the army, and equating it with freedom. There is something ironic about humans who are driven primarily by emotions and physiological impulses pining for logic, yet this is something that we all do in attempts to combat our natures. The animalistic equating logic with freedom is also interesting, and completely driven by social context and culture- wanting to fit into the facade of logic embodied by ‘productive members of society’ by freeing oneself of the drives in the reptile brain. The school teacher, a ‘member of society’ is driven toward the animalistic, and equates freedom to pursuing these impulses with restraint, as she controls them logically with her ego functions, which are at levels that the butcher doesn’t possess yet he puts them on a pedestal of worship and envy. She was involved in a long emotional relationship that ended badly and remains guarded, wearing logic as armor and possessing the freedom he wants. Both of their traumas cause them to want logic, but this logic is out of his reach partially because he doesn’t actually want it, or isn’t willing, to fully submit his emotions. He is a romantic, and in a key scene in the woods they talk of romance from entirely different angles: he advocates for succumbing to desire (“never making love can make you insane”) while she responds with logic (“but doing it can make you crazy”). One could see this as an exaggerated portrait of the attraction between two people, romantically or socially, and the manners in which we emit logical, emotional, and physiological actions authentically and in response to others’ energies: because we want what they have or we want to show them what they want. It’s also an examination of the psychology of the individual as he or she attempts to exist and battle with oneself and within a microsystem of social norms and alternate philosophies, as both an animal and a logical person with executive functioning.

On a smaller scale, by the end we are left with possibly a weird kind of fetishistic relationship that’s not mutually understood or agreed upon, where one party is trying to connect with another desperately and impossibly, while the other - supposedly innocent party- becomes the unreadable fetishist who’s been in the driver's seat all along, without anyone knowing. Chabrol knows that the ‘animal’ tendencies are strong, often stronger, than the logical, and he vaguely presents us with the possibility that the people who can lean logically (cognitively vs. emotionally driven) may be the more frightening personality-type and human being between the two to walk the earth, with a psychology ironically less rational by overpowering natural processes of human behavior that have been around for thousands of years. Chabrol crafts a film that makes our own behavior seem alien... to us. Sweet beautiful bizarre irony.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#36 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:54 pm

I would agree that Le boucher is an awesome piece of work. I love the way that Chabrol often twists the crime thriller to focus on characters that would normally be seen as the 'normal' person in a situation of violence, rather than glorying in the 'aberrant' psychology of the murderous person particularly. It is often about how putative 'normal' people respond to acts of violence (and in Le boucher acts of declarations of love, which seem just as violent at times!), and sometimes they do not respond in the societally acceptable manner! For example the private investigator in La rupture is arguably more monstrous in his sustained and premeditated actions than the impulsively abusive husband, who was implied to have been driven into drug use and mental derangement by his wealthy family, who are also the ones who in an attempt to protect their family name from scandal hire the P.I. to destroy the wife by discrediting her accusations and requests for a divorce as well.

Perhaps the best companion to Le boucher is the adulterous wife also played by Stéphane Audran in La Femme Infidèle who has her complex responses to the realisation that her husband has murdered her lover lingered on (is that the ultimate declaration of love for her? Or the ultimate act of a possessive and controlling spouse? Does that bind them together stronger or tear them apart through a shared horrific secret? Can they ever go back to what they once were? And would either of them want that, given that the stifling bourgeoisie lifestyle appears to have driven the wife to have an exciting affair in the first place, and becoming a killer seems to have in certain ways revitalised the husband's passions too) rather than it really being entirely the husband's story that it appears as at first.

I often wonder if Le boucher and The Naked Kiss would make for a good 'contrasting response of the central character to a similar situation' double bill!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:31 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#37 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:01 am

colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:54 pm
I love the way that Chabrol often twists the crime thriller to focus on characters that would normally be seen as the 'normal' person in a situation of violence, rather than glorying in the 'aberrant' psychology of the murderous person particularly.
I agree, and the way he avoids pathology like the plague is not only welcome when most filmmakers default to it, but incredibly respectful and realistic. The fact that Chabrol is able to be so sensitive and multidimensional in his examination while coolly distant and vague enough to cause us to raise these questions about what his characters are thinking, feeling, needing, or wanting on conscious, subconscious, or (likely most often) unconscious levels, is a testament to his craftsmanship and restraint. I never even considered those questions you raised about Stéphane Audran in La Femme Infidèle and whether one agrees or disagrees with this or any viewpoint (I’ll say that despite enjoying Ebert’s reading of Le Boucher I don’t agree with aspects of it) is besides the point, for now I already find La Femme Infidèle far more interesting and layered than I did during my initial watch- and I don’t even like the film that much. Chabrol doesn’t believe in objective answers, and he uses objective approaches to attempt to prove their falsities. While many films may not have rigidly intended readings and also benefit from discussion, Chabrol’s entire method is to provoke psychological flexibility in his audience to project onto the psychologies of his unknowable characters (not completely unreadable, but like any person, impossible to “know” motive, thoughts, etc), like some kind of meta-irony but rooted in truth of life, particularly in our interactions with others, attempts to interpret their actions or emotions, and how ‘normal’ people as you say respond to significant acts, events, societies, and other people.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#38 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:23 am

I guess that it also all ties into that theme of a certain element of societal hypocrisy where beneath the cool and calm (though often icy cold and occasionally eerily implacable) exterior of well to do manners and mores emotional drives are boiling away underneath and can often only be expressed in shocking outbursts, especially if characters have been forced to repress themselves for so long in order to embody the role that the society has deemed them to fit into, which might not entirely perfectly leave all aspects of them fulfilled (In Le boucher the central, respected role of the butcher to the community, or that of the teacher in the local school. Or the patiently loving wife and mother with no wider social circle or life beyond the home in La femme infidèle). That element of lacking some almost indefinable element in their life that society just cannot provide (or has not interest in providing), often indefinable even to the character themselves even if it drives them into dark areas, seems important in Chabrol. Love (and children) is often thrown up as the easy solution to filling that lack, but that often has its own issues with turning into a relationship power game also.

In a way the violent characters in a Chabrol film are often seen as (or are in the process of becoming, which is often where their tragic aspect lies) the more 'simple', self destructive characters because they have gone beyond the pale and given licence to themselves to perform certain acts and are now seen as only being driven by their urges, whilst we as the audience often see them from a distance through the eyes of the far more complex characters surrounding them who are still mired in the constantly shifting power games of their social roles and are usually trying to work an often blunt central situation around to reframe it to their own advantage. (Or to accommodate it into their view of the world as it now is with this shocking act, whatever it may be, having taken place within it)

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#39 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:32 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:01 am
colinr0380 wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 2:54 pm
I love the way that Chabrol often twists the crime thriller to focus on characters that would normally be seen as the 'normal' person in a situation of violence, rather than glorying in the 'aberrant' psychology of the murderous person particularly.
I agree, and the way he avoids pathology like the plague is not only welcome when most filmmakers default to it, but incredibly respectful and realistic.
colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:23 am
by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:23 am
In a way the violent characters in a Chabrol film are often seen as (or are in the process of becoming, which is often where their tragic aspect lies) the more 'simple', self destructive characters because they have gone beyond the pale and given licence to themselves to perform certain acts and are now seen as only being driven by their urges, whilst we as the audience often see them from a distance through the eyes of the far more complex characters surrounding them who are still mired in the constantly shifting power games of their social roles and are usually trying to work an often blunt central situation around to reframe it to their own advantage. (Or to accommodate it into their view of the world as it now is with this shocking act, whatever it may be, having taken place within it)
You both I think hit directly at Chabrol's central concern as a form of perverse symbiosis that exists in most of his films dealing with 'couples' . How they mirror each other and how their relationship spirals into tragic complexity not necessarily lodged in a pathological urge but banal or moribund circumstances . It's how Chabrol manages to imbibe this often with elements of black humour which makes him such a consummate film-maker when allowed to be. I want to carry on this theme with regard to Les Fantômes du Chapelier when I get to read the Simenon source novel for comparison.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#40 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:12 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:23 am
I guess that it also all ties into that theme of a certain element of societal hypocrisy where beneath the cool and calm (though often icy cold and occasionally eerily implacable) exterior of well to do manners and mores emotional drives are boiling away underneath and can often only be expressed in shocking outbursts, especially if characters have been forced to repress themselves for so long in order to embody the role that the society has deemed them to fit into, which might not entirely perfectly leave all aspects of them fulfilled (In Le boucher the central, respected role of the butcher to the community, or that of the teacher in the local school. Or the patiently loving wife and mother with no wider social circle or life beyond the home in La femme infidèle). That element of lacking some almost indefinable element in their life that society just cannot provide (or has not interest in providing), often indefinable even to the character themselves even if it drives them into dark areas, seems important in Chabrol. Love (and children) is often thrown up as the easy solution to filling that lack, but that often has its own issues with turning into a relationship power game also.
This is a crucial point to emphasize, since the social environment (and associated normative behaviors) is such a potent variable in Chabol's work that it practically embodies its own character, though sometimes more visibly than others. While it's sometimes easier to focus primarily on the individual and their perspective in their relationship with the environment, it's worth considering that the environment itself drives many of these characters' suppression and repression of urges, and Chabrol often frames scenes to highlight this fact, as if from the perspective of the environment.
colinr0380 wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:23 am
In a way the violent characters in a Chabrol film are often seen as (or are in the process of becoming, which is often where their tragic aspect lies) the more 'simple', self destructive characters because they have gone beyond the pale and given licence to themselves to perform certain acts and are now seen as only being driven by their urges, whilst we as the audience often see them from a distance through the eyes of the far more complex characters surrounding them who are still mired in the constantly shifting power games of their social roles and are usually trying to work an often blunt central situation around to reframe it to their own advantage. (Or to accommodate it into their view of the world as it now is with this shocking act, whatever it may be, having taken place within it)
Your point about how the characters latch onto labels of themselves is interesting, and only provides more food for thought on Chabol's understanding of the human condition, particularly western cultures' default to pathologize oneself with "I" statements, choosing to define the self by a feeling, action, circumstance to simplify vs. complicate our minds (i.e. "I am hopeless" vs. "I am experiencing a lack of hope"; "I am a murderer" vs. "I am a person who has killed"). As a therapist this is something I see all the time, and breaking this mold is difficult since this habit is so culturally deep-rooted, for this process of labeling oneself services the individual as a kind of alleviation of discomfort from the psychological and philosophical pain of seeing the human being as complex. Simplification via defining oneself by a trait allows people to latch onto something they can consider to attribute absolute meaning to their actions, psychological or emotional state, some tangible truth about themselves, even if it is negative it is more comfortable often than the unknown factors being suppressed to make a complex person.
NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 4:32 am
You both I think hit directly at Chabrol's central concern as a form of perverse symbiosis that exists in most of his films dealing with 'couples' . How they mirror each other and how their relationship spirals into tragic complexity not necessarily lodged in a pathological urge but banal or moribund circumstances . It's how Chabrol manages to imbibe this often with elements of black humour which makes him such a consummate film-maker when allowed to be.
Exactly, Chabrol's use of couples perfectly exemplifies this detachment between an individual and his/her environment, by exposing the facade of what society deems to be the strongest 'connection' - the spouse - by showing how fragile that connection is to both parties in the couple and to the audience. Everyone involved in this film (as characters and audience) can see how it's not because of one aggressive act that tower crumbles, but it's the tower being made of sand that does it; 'connection between two people' itself is the falsehood, and Chabol's ironic approach is in manipulating the characters and viewer through showing this truth with minimal effort. I am more interested in your point of how both people in Chabrol's couples "mirror each other" as I haven't considered that element so much, but have no doubt that there's a lot to unpack in rewatching all of his films through that lens!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#41 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:23 pm

This discussion is actually making me appreciate Dr M a bit more, or at least is making me think that I really should revisit it rather than commenting from decades old memories of my last viewing of it, since that central Mabuse figure feels like the ultimate version of that kind of figure who is at the centre of a web of intrigue (have they created the situation themselves, or has the environment also responsibility for having brought such a figure into being?) but eventually seems irrelevant to the film compared to the characters having to respond to the inexplicable wave of suicides.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 3:12 pm
I am more interested in your point of how both people in Chabrol's couples "mirror each other" as I haven't considered that element so much, but have no doubt that there's a lot to unpack in rewatching all of his films through that lens!
Not to speak for Nabob, but it would certainly seem as if Les biches benefits from that perspective! That definitely feels like the central couple swaps roles, or rather get inspired by each other into carrying out certain actions, at key stages.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#42 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:12 pm

Les Biches is what first came to mind for me after your point about “societal hypocrisy” and suppression, but I think you’re right in choosing this as a great example of the mirroring (sinemadelisikiz seemed to be hinting at some of these points too upthread), though I’d need to see it again to analyze the occurrences “at key stages.” The more time passes, the more that film sticks out as not only one of Chabrol’s most complex but one of his most calculated efforts, and the way we’re talking about it I’m almost wondering if it should be double billed with Persona.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#43 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:56 am

Les Biches is certainly a leading candidate but also have a look at L'Oeil du Malin (I re-posted some notes on it a bit higher up) where the Andreas-André coupling fits the bill- the successful writer being challenged by the mediocre writer for the same object of desire and insinuating himself into the household with the goal of replacing him.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#44 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:31 pm

Nada (1974): A film about anarchists shot like a cinematic anarchist, which is not to say this isn’t polished. The technique here is assured yet the whole vibe is chaotic, with a quick pace, erratic characters and escalating violence. While arguably a political film, this is as fun a movie as I’ve seen from the director, and balances the humor and seriousness nicely in this turbulent melting pot of moods and visuals. Chabrol shows both sides of the coin to be dirty, in his classic impartial, morally relativistic way, allowing the spectators to let go of possible political allegiances and immerse themselves in the experience. This is an interesting and exciting outlier in Chabrol’s oeuvre, and sure to land a spot on my list.

Les Innocents aux mains sales (1975): The way the plot slowly unfolds is one of his best examples of Chabrol’s talents in deliberate pacing and how this forms the best kind of thriller. Following his ‘hot’ streak, this film serves as an indicator for the consistent, solidified skills of his later period. Chabrol asks us to walk a twisted tightrope blindfolded, but he sticks with his restrained style, giving us a net to land in as we wander into the dark with our surrogate protagonist as we try to figure out what the hell is going on. One often feels safe watching a Chabrol film, but enthralled and captivated all the while (I believe domino said it best referring to Chabrol as ‘manipulative but fair’). This is a great example of that feeling, and a great film.

Au coeur du mensonge (1999): This mystery revolves around heavier material and keeps that weight for much of its duration, while painting the various characters, including our suspect, in a fleshed out and compassionate manner. Here Chabrol’s social dynamics don’t take place all in the family, as he shares the time with the colorful town community, stretching his typical micro-systemic focus to a mezzo level, while still keeping us grounded to the ideological state apparatuses in which we exist (family, community). By offering this extension and space in the narrative to see the expressions and impressions of people in the town as they wonder about the unknowable, Chabrol paints perhaps the most realistic depiction of what it would be like to live in a community where a murder takes place, sit in the discomfort of the unknown and cope with information, or anti-information, about people who we think we ‘know’ based on the very notions that we are limited to the information of our experience. I felt part of this town, yet appropriately distanced, for that’s what the characters feel themselves- whether they know it or not.
SpoilerShow
It was a bold choice to present a truly loving marriage with an affair occurring within- another example of Chabrol presenting a complexity you rarely see in films- as well as the other party suspecting yet staying mostly removed from jealousy that follows most caricatures in these roles. I never doubted the love for a second and by limiting our scope to the reasons for the affair (this is not a derivative situation where characters spell out their rationales to one another) Chabrol creates a mature, confident examination of a realistic relationship. This was the best aspect of an already great film.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#45 Post by knives » Wed Jun 12, 2019 6:48 pm

The most amusing part of Fantomas beyond the amusing jump into genre is how the pair of directors are in concert with one another. Chabrol's bookending episodes regularly reference, sometimes explicitly, Bunuel's father while in return Bunuel seems intent on having more Hitchcock then Chabrol's career up to that point. It gets pretty nasty to the point of being shocking when episode two recreates a recreation of Rear Window thirty years before the film was made.

That concert goes a few steps beyond cute references though. For example there's a running theme of Catholicism as untrustworthy that at first looks like a reference to the elder, but becomes so persistent that by the end it starts to have to be taken seriously.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#46 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 13, 2019 10:46 pm

Image

La Ceremonie (1995)

This is without a doubt a contender for Chabrol’s masterpiece, even if it isn’t my personal favorite of his films. The way he allots generous space to each character to allow glimpses into significantly insignificant idiosyncrasies defines how we approach characters, motives, and social dynamics from where we sit, looking from the outside in. But nothing can prepare us for how it all comes crashing down; not even a familiarization with the director’s work. The film eyes in on the effects of socioeconomic isolation on individuals’ perceived inadequacy-by-comparison and oppression based on division of classes and, thus, accessibility to skills and opportunities. This causes inevitably severe emotions spawned from this separation on both sides- guilt and envy, subsequently channeled into externalized politeness and projected anger, respectively. Chabrol appears to be comparing these socioeconomic disparities to the notion of ableism, most obviously via the frantic shameful moments where illiteracy affects Sophie, and we see her as disabled, and validate her pain. The way Chabrol achieves this thematic resolution is so methodically visual it evokes Jeanne Dielman (in more ways than just technique!) and both Huppert and Bonnaire do incredible work as the two leads that are obnoxious, sympathetic, funny, endearing, independent, provocative, capricious, and exciting to be around until together with Chabrol they deliver one of the most unexpectedly affecting and jarring pushes to emotional sobriety that I’ve experienced in my lifetime of watching movies. The outcast buddy story twists into a cautionary tale about the dangers of power dynamics in socialization. Does it really take just a nudge from another to push one toward the unspeakable? Perhaps, but not without reasons, and not all of them knowable. Maybe Chabrol is suggesting that more of us are closer to the brink of crisis than we think, particularly when you add ingredients embedded into one’s social context that amplify negative core beliefs, and peer influences that provide maladaptive avenues to aggressively project this psychological dysregulation. At the very least, this is another complex presentation of a complex case study, and one of his best-paced, acted, and written films.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#47 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sat Jun 15, 2019 4:57 am

Les Fantômes du Chapelier

Chabrol expressed an affinity with Simenon that extended to a long personal friendship as well as the world portrayed in his books . Chabrol’s career was bookended with attempts at adaptations of two Simenon novels that didn’t come to fruition and we are left with just two, Betty and Les Fantômes du Chapelier, both of which Chabrol was immensely proud of.
In an interview with INA he spoke of the long struggle over 15 years he had with the adaptation of Chapelier and likened the problem of deviating from the text to removing a solitary nail from a wall only to see the whole edifice crash down around you. He indeed follows Simenon religiously in its structure and tone but saturates it with the hallmarks of another of his greatest influences ,Fritz Lang. The use of an ‘architectural’ mise-en- scène propelling the narrative and creating one of Chabrol’s most aesthetically plastic looking films.
Ostensibly set in the old quarter of La Rochelle Chabrol moved north to Brittany to be assured of the constant rain that Simenon describes as unrelenting and punishing. Although a notoriously rainy region they ended up having to rely on the local fire brigade for the constant downpour.

We are introduced to the central character Léon Labbé ,played to the hilt by Michel Serrault ,placing a newly steamed hat onto a mannequin in the shop window which uncannily bears the face of the proprietor himself. Positioned alongside and seen through the glass we come to the first of many such mirroring devices. Leon is pernickety , fastidious and self absorbed . A veritable articulated tailor’s dummy further enhanced by a gait that suggests an automaton. He is also a serial killer of elderly ladies.

Directly opposite the Hatter’s house and shop is a replica of his own inhabited by a Tailor (Aznavour ) an Armenian immigrant and his family . Simenon describes the street as being so narrow as to give the illusion that through the proximity and geometrical match of the windows they are actually living in a shared house. Chabrol takes this notion and adds a form of choreographed matched action where shutters on their shops are opened simultaneously windows opened , blinds drawn which the Chapelier seem to delight in orchestrating ,culminating in them leaving their respective houses in tandem with a mutually exchanged polite ‘Good Morning’ .

This seemingly banal ritual soon reveals the crux of the matter. Namely that the tailor Kachoudas is keeping tabs on his neighbour as he suspects him of being the serial killer of the old ladies that are being systematically murdered. Far from using stealth and secrecy he follows him openly dogging his footsteps through the narrow cobbled streets in the incessant rain to the café where he takes his dinner and joins his cronies for a game of bridge . Sitting silently on the adjacent table observing nervously he is indulged by the Chapelier with an ironic benevolence sometimes openly baiting him in front of the café clientele or ridiculing him by adopting a wildly eccentric walk and disappearing in and out of the shadows on their walk back home. Psychologically this inversion of the hunter and the game intensifies .Visually with domestic chores and actions such as eating at home being cross cut whilst the motivation for this charade and the level of intimidation becomes increasingly blurred.

I wanted to address purely the idea of mirroring that was broached previously and so will not divulge any more key plot points other than one strand of the story ,which is the sending of taunting messages by the killer to the local newspaper made up from individual letters meticulously cut from old copies. The name of the newspaper is the ‘Echo’ which seems to neatly encapsulate the process at hand.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#48 Post by knives » Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:27 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:31 pm
Au coeur du mensonge (1999): This mystery revolves around heavier material and keeps that weight for much of its duration, while painting the various characters, including our suspect, in a fleshed out and compassionate manner. Here Chabrol’s social dynamics don’t take place all in the family, as he shares the time with the colorful town community, stretching his typical micro-systemic focus to a mezzo level, while still keeping us grounded to the ideological state apparatuses in which we exist (family, community). By offering this extension and space in the narrative to see the expressions and impressions of people in the town as they wonder about the unknowable, Chabrol paints perhaps the most realistic depiction of what it would be like to live in a community where a murder takes place, sit in the discomfort of the unknown and cope with information, or anti-information, about people who we think we ‘know’ based on the very notions that we are limited to the information of our experience. I felt part of this town, yet appropriately distanced, for that’s what the characters feel themselves- whether they know it or not.
SpoilerShow
It was a bold choice to present a truly loving marriage with an affair occurring within- another example of Chabrol presenting a complexity you rarely see in films- as well as the other party suspecting yet staying mostly removed from jealousy that follows most caricatures in these roles. I never doubted the love for a second and by limiting our scope to the reasons for the affair (this is not a derivative situation where characters spell out their rationales to one another) Chabrol creates a mature, confident examination of a realistic relationship. This was the best aspect of an already great film.
What I was caught by with this is how like in many of the other Barski scripted films there's this sense of cognitive dissonance with the characters where they have to act out roles in a movie they're not interested in. In particular this shows up with your spoiler. As he reviews the tape, for example, it comes across like he's watching the movie as an attempt to figure out where he resides within it. Is he villain or hero sort of thing. The movie also reminded me of Twin Peaks by way of Rohmer a bit as it too utilizes a tragedy to jumpstart an investigation of provincial actors who becomes more complex as the initiating act becomes less relevant. By the midway point her death is just a memory.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#49 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:04 am

knives wrote:
Sun Jun 16, 2019 11:27 am
What I was caught by with this is how like in many of the other Barski scripted films there's this sense of cognitive dissonance with the characters where they have to act out roles in a movie they're not interested in. In particular this shows up with your spoiler. As he reviews the tape, for example, it comes across like he's watching the movie as an attempt to figure out where he resides within it. Is he villain or hero sort of thing. The movie also reminded me of Twin Peaks by way of Rohmer a bit as it too utilizes a tragedy to jumpstart an investigation of provincial actors who becomes more complex as the initiating act becomes less relevant. By the midway point her death is just a memory.
Chabrol is most interesting when he uses a tragedy/murder/crime (any acute incident) as a pathway to people, their psychologies and interpersonal dynamics, and this is definitely a key example due to the many going-ons and characters explored in the community. Your thoughts on characters exhibiting cognitive dissonance to attempt to subscribe to a predefined role remind me of the conversation above regarding the default mode in clawing for an assigned role to simplify one’s place in society/a relationship and thus bring about comfort or a reprieve from the discomfort of nihilistic disconnection. The ‘cognitive dissonance’ piece is an extra layer that I hadn’t thought of in that way before but agree that these character drives often result in, or come from, this process in Chabrol’s work- or at least that’s one term for the complex psychological reasons triggering action.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#50 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Jun 17, 2019 3:45 am

Ruth Rendell mostly known for her daytime TV crime series featuring Inspector Wexford also explored the darker side of her characters' psychology normally under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine but in the instance of La Cérémonie and La Demoiselle d’honneur she supplied Chabrol with the source material under the Rendell banner.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:04 am
Chabrol is most interesting when he uses a tragedy/murder/crime (any acute incident) as a pathway to people, their psychologies and interpersonal dynamics, and this is definitely a key example due to the many going-ons and characters explored in the community. Your thoughts on characters exhibiting cognitive dissonance to attempt to subscribe to a predefined role remind me of the conversation above regarding the default mode in clawing for an assigned role to simplify one’s place in society/a relationship and thus bring about comfort or a reprieve from the discomfort of nihilistic disconnection. The ‘cognitive dissonance’ piece is an extra layer that I hadn’t thought of in that way before but agree that these character drives often result in, or come from, this process in Chabrol’s work- or at least that’s one term for the complex psychological reasons triggering action.
Certainly in particular respect to 'The Bridesmaid' this seems tailor made for this type of exploration. Chabrol’s interest was piqued by the setting of the story amongst the ‘sous-bourgeoisie’ as opposed to his normal pre-occupation with those of a higher social standing but principally by the main characters being young and the adult hopeless desire for them to act ‘reasonably’.

We are introduced to single Mum Christine (Aurore Clément) who eeks a living as a hairdresser visiting old ladies in their own homes along with her three children. Philippe (Benoît Magimel) the oldest son a handsome sales-rep who effortlessly placates his neurotic boss and is doted on by his adoring mother to such a queazy degree that initially we could believe that there is an incestuous underlay beneath the surface average domesticity. Two daughters make up the rest of the household . One, Sophie, on the cusp of getting married and Patricia a younger more petulant cynical teen . At the marriage ceremony in a drab provincial Salle de fête the son meets the glum bridesmaid of honour who has been drafted in from the outer extremities of the groom’s extended family.

And so we follow the metamorphosis of Miss Glum into vampiric controlling seductress with a insatiable sexual appetite which engulfs young Philippe.

As the relationship becomes more testing and teasing for him his anguish is pushed to the limit with her insistence on a bizarre lover’s triste which inevitably will lead them both into peril.
This descent into an emotional inferno is characteristically mirrored (that word again) by being set in Senta’s home,a fantasmagorical subterranean space in a rambling shabby mansion shared with her Tango obsessed step-mother and a rather bewildered dance partner. Naturally this turns his rather mundane world and home-life upside down both symbolically and effectively.

However this where I have serious doubts about the whole enterprise . The first time I saw the film some years ago I went along with the premise and found myself sufficiently entertained but not much beyond that.This time I feel far less forgiving . Any tension within his own family seems dissipated by his keeping the affair too tightly secret rendering their part in the drama under-realised. That leaves us with the central duo prioritised to such a degree that the cracks begin to show. I am not sure whether the ‘cognitive dissonances’ alluded to in the above posts are not just relegated to Manic Pixie Nightmare girl leads sap who can’t keep his dick in his pants to purgatory.

Unfortunately I can’t rely on Benoît Magimel to stop this drift as he seem to radiate a total lack of conviction in his character ’s fragility or complexity and Laura Smet as Senta doesn't give her volatility enough edge to reinforce the idea of his total subjugation to her. So this contender will not climb the dizzy heights of my list as I am assured of at least 20 better offerings. Dom will differ no doubt but that's what makes the world such an exciting place.

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