Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

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domino harvey
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Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#1 Post by domino harvey » Mon May 27, 2019 4:53 pm

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THE AUTEUR LIST: CLAUDE CHABROL
June 01 - July 31


ELIGIBILITY SPECIFICS, EXCEPTIONS, AND SPECIAL CASES

Any film with Claude Chabrol credited as director is eligible. TV movies, miniseries, anthology series episodes, musical performances, and shorts are all eligible.

Portmanteau segments are eligible and must be voted on individually apart from the film they appear within (ie you can’t vote for Paris vu par…, only La muette).

For the purposes of this list, the entirety of Chabrol and Juan Luis Bunuel’s co-directed Fantômas miniseries is considered one film.

Le scandale and the Champagne Murders are to be considered two different films, given the differences in content between the two versions. Other movies circulating with English dubs such as Docteur Popaul or Les magiciens, or English productions later dubbed in French, such as Blood Relatives, are not considered to be materially different films between their different language versions and either version constitutes the same film.

There are some circulating variant versions of Les bonnes femmes and A double tour with a few additional or alternate scenes, but these will constitute the same film for voting purposes.

The original HBO two-part version of the Blood of Others is to be considered separate from the significantly shorter theatrical release. However, to my knowledge the original longer version is not circulating, so this is probably a moot distinction.

Les novices is eligible for this list, as Chabrol was brought in to save the production after Guy Casaril was fired for alleged incompetence. Chabrol did not feel he was able to salvage the picture and declined to be credited, but we still got 'im.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR LIST
Lists should be PMed to me, domino harvey, by July 31st. No lists will be accepted before June 1st.

The minimum and standard number of submitted films for each participating member is 10, in ranked order (With number one being the best and so on down the line). However, if you can’t bear to limit yourself to a mere ten titles, you may submit up to twenty ranked titles (ie 20 total max) or any variant number between ten and twenty (so yes, your list may contain nineteen films, but you’ll always live with the knowledge that you submitted a prime number). Hopefully this sliding scale of voting slots will result in a multitude of ballots from members with varying degrees of exposure to and comfort with Chabrol’s oeuvre.

You may submit your list using either the French or English titles (except for Le scandale / the Champagne Murders, where different titles indicate different films). Members who submit only ten films and those who submit a maximum twenty titles will still be on even footing when it comes to the points assigned for the top ten (ie the film in their number one slot will be worth twenty points on everyone’s list). The final list will comprise of a Top 25, with supplemental recordings of also-rans and orphans, as in other list projects.

TL;DR: Submit a list of 10-20 films in ranked order to me, domino harvey, via PM by July 31st.

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domino harvey
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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#2 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 01, 2019 8:32 pm

It’s finally here! Hopefully we get some good discussion going. A few things:

For those on the hunt for as many Chabrols as possible, these are the only titles (all television works) not circulating with English subs (and in many instances, not circulating at all):

the Blood of Others (HBO version) (1984)
Deux plus deux égal quatre (1978)
Le banc de la désolation (1974)
La boucle d'oreille (1979)
La danse de mort (1982)
Les gens de l'été (1974)
Le système du docteur Goudron et du professeur Plume (1981)
Les Affinités électives (1982)
Monsieur Bébé (1974)
Monsieur Liszt (1979)
Monsieur Prokofiev (1979)
Monsieur Saint-Saëns (1978)
Nul n'est parfait (1974)
Une invitation à la chasse (1974)


Keep in mind that while available in some instances with French dubs, these Chabrol films are intended to be in English:

the Blood of Others
Blood Relatives
the Champagne Murders - Since Universal recut Le scandale along with the English audio/dub (and different screenwriters!), it’s technically correct for this version
Dr M
Jours tranquilles à Clichy - There is some confusion and contradictory info out there on this one, but I watched the French dub and it became immediately clear and was reinforced over and over based on the dialog and certain story beats that the film’s spoken language was intended to be in English. Plus we all know Andrew McCarthy’s sweet voice anywhere, you think we gonna just forget it for whoever the Jess Hahn Lite guy is they got to overdub him??? The French Blu-ray contains the English language version as well as the unsubbed French dub
La décade prodigieuse - I believe the English dub is the intended language, but while Perkins spoke fluent French I think both versions end up featuring partial dubbing for the other actors depending (a common occurence with these international productions)
the Twist

…and Jeunesse et Spiritualité: Cyprien Katsaris contains no dialogue, as it’s just a filmed piano recital with a few stray minutes of outdoors footage interspersed in the latter half

&

I invite everyone watching or rewatching Chabrol’s films to join me in his (slightly less consistent) Hitchcock cameo equivalent and play: Where’s Dominique Zardi?

Here’s the last three I spotted him in to start us off:

Jours tranquilles à Clichy: Gustave, the jealous fiance

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Les novices: Cop eating a sandwich

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the Blood of Others: Nazi eating a sandwich


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Don’t cheat by checking IMDB first, earn your Zardi Sightings the old fashioned way by keeping your eyes peeled during viewing! As with cryptids and UFOs, photo evidence goes a long way towards collecting your valuable internet points

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#3 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:57 pm

I've never seen a Chabrol film (really!). I love a good thriller, tho', so what are his best thrillers? If I can get my hands on them, I'll gladly write up my viewings, even if I doubt I'll end up seeing enough to make a list.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#4 Post by mizo » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:05 pm

I've been waiting for this one! Chabrol has lately become one of my absolute favorite directors. Still, I've mostly stayed within the confines of the most widely-acclaimed periods of his career (the early NW films, the iconic 60s and 70s thrillers, and his 90s renaissance). But I'm looking forward to branching into more advanced studies and, of course, reporting back here. Maybe posting this will actually bind me to it for once!

As of right now, barring the discovery of an unexpected masterpiece, my number one slot is being hotly contested by two titles: La cérémonie and La rupture. The former is a totally flawless exercise in gradually transforming subtle unease into urgent dread, and it inspired in me a reaction I'd never had to a film before: I genuinely loved every minute of it, but desperately wished it would end soon, because I didn't know how much longer my heart could take it! I don't think I've ever seen another movie so tailor-made to exploit my own anxieties, ranging from worries about minor faux pas to the entirely legitimate and not remotely unfounded fear that
SpoilerShow
if I play music too loudly I won't notice when people break into my home.
If you're new to it, make sure you know as little as possible going in. Don't even read the first line on the film's Wikipedia page!

La rupture doesn't work quite that intensely on me (what else does?) but more than makes up for it by being one of the most fun thrillers I've ever seen. Wildly entertaining and constantly surprising from beginning to end. It's the kind of movie where every new plot development inspires a wide smile of admiration.

Sausage, I'd say either of those would make a good start!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#5 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:14 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:
Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:57 pm
I've never seen a Chabrol film (really!). I love a good thriller, tho', so what are his best thrillers? If I can get my hands on them, I'll gladly write up my viewings, even if I doubt I'll end up seeing enough to make a list.
You certainly can’t go wrong with either of mizo’s suggestions (and I would be truly stunned if La cérémonie did not appear on every submitted list), but based on what I (think I) know of your tastes, I suspect you’d really enjoy Le cri du hibou, which All Day Entertainment put out on DVD as the Cry of the Owl with an excellent secret David Kalat-camoeing commentary to boot (plus a really bad taste extra that I’m sure Chabrol would have loved— and this is def a spoiler, so if anyone buys this as opposed to streaming it, don’t look at the DVD insert til after you’ve seen the movie, as it’s
SpoilerShow
an English language reproduction of the suicide letter from the film, in lieu of liner notes!)

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#6 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:38 pm

I hadn’t seen many Chabrol films until recently, with the exceptions of Le Ceremonie, Le Boucher, and Les Cousins, all of which I’d seen many times and would be shocked if all three didn’t land near the top of my list.

I’ll add to the praise of Le Cri du hibou and La Rupture, which along with Masques will also likely make my top 10.

The biggest surprise in preparation for this list project was Les Bonnes femmes. Though not a thriller per se, the film absolutely floored me and any thoughts I end up writing will likely be gibberish in an attempt to communicate how affected I was by this. I doubt it’ll rank as high for the majority of folks here, but I can’t recommend it strongly enough for those who like the early films of the French New Wave.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#7 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 01, 2019 11:54 pm

Going into this list, Les bonnes femmes is somewhere in my top five too, along with Les cousins, La cérémonie, Le cri du hibou, and La demoiselle d'honneur (another unusual "thriller" for your watch pile, Sausage), but I am looking forward to revisiting all of these and more, so my memories may not match the end reality of my rankings!

Sausage, you're going to find that Chabrol doesn't make conventional thrillers due to his infamous objectivity, something that sent non-Cahiers critics into apoplexia in the early 60s and continues to confound some viewers who read this as cold, unfeeling, or even misanthropic. Chabrol is not a warm director (even his Amarcord childhood movie, Le cheval d'orgueil, has constant dark spectres of death and cold hard times to counterbalance the expected warm glow of nostalgia), but he's not a provocateur either. He loves to manipulate the audience but always plays it fair. If anything, his filmmaking attitude and style should be read as omniscience!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#8 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:20 am

Also worth remembering that Kino Lorber's two Chabrol Blu-rays, L'Œil du malin (as the Third Lover) and the Champagne Murders, will be released in July, just in time for viewing for those who haven't seen them yet/want to revisit. L'Œil du malin, with its constant pulp novel narration and claustrophobic precision of focus, is fascinating almost anti-cinema at times, but it's lower-top tier Chabrol. Low-key endeavors like this and La fleur du mal (another gimme for my list, somewhere, and as close to a Chabrol tone poem as you can get) are really what separates a master like Chabrol from the rest. This isn't to say he didn't fail-- merde like Docteur Popaul or the Twist have no redeeming qualities-- but his strength is often found most unexpectedly in his midrange, forming an oeuvre composed of works that build on each other as variations on a theme, an idea, a style, an approach. Chabrol is so good that just watching him be okay is more enjoyable than it should be-- and with somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty-plus films, all of which can't possibly be masterpieces, that's a good thing!

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#9 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:59 am

I can’t even write anything about The Twist because it was so painfully bad I turned it off after about ten minutes (something I almost never do, especially with a filmmaker who I respect as much as Chabrol, though he famously considers it not only his own worst film but one of the worst films ever made by anyone). Regardless, I’d love to hear a defense of this from anyone who’s seen it and detected some merit in the process.

Why not start with some of those later thrillers, many of which will encompass the tail end of my top 10 and a good chunk of 11-20 spots. Some off the cuff thoughts:

La Demoiselle d'honneur (2004)
A masterfully twisted slow-burn of suspense, like the best of Hitchcock or Polanski. Everything Chabrol does best is on display here, creating the ultimate “he/she is not what they seem” thriller, sensitive and curious rather than exploitative of the psychology involved. Still, Chabrol never shies away from the risks and horrors at stake in the process of attempting to know and connect with another.

La Fleur du mal (2002)
A nasty little film about a family whose members either don’t trust, know, or like one another- yet there is something that binds them all the same: upper class social mores. However, Chabrol twists his knife into this claim, making a point to emphasize that ambition and bourgeois ideologies don’t need to go hand in hand. These ambitions can tear at the collective when separated into individual drives or indulging in emotional reactivity, shattering the ideological state apparatus of family or bourgeois, and revealing the delicacy of the facade. At one point a character points out that “we’re all hypocrites” and calmly states that this is how society was built. Cynical, sly, winking, and shrugging at the irony of our constructed and deconstructed world.

Merci pour le chocolat (2000)
Chabrol spins a web of mystery even more intriguing than some of his strictly suspenseful affairs. His “objective camera” makes this even more exciting as we don’t really know what any character is up to, and that’s part of the fun. While all this is going on, there’s thematic nods to the director’s obsession (going all the way back to his first few films) with family systems and connection- and all the complex emotions between, this time focusing on envy and the desire of belongingness. More mystery-thrillers should study this one and bring back the faded genre.

Rien ne va plus (1997)
The dynamic between the two leads makes this a very pleasurable affair. Even amongst the horrors and deceit, we care about them and want to see them make out alright. With such likeable characters, and a con artist plot, it’s hard to go wrong and Chabrol crafts a film that stretches his thematic interests and technique less than his projects to come in the aughts, but instead settles for exciting and engaging, if a bit lighthearted for the director.

Chabrol is a director I enjoyed watching out of order, though jumping between different eras was key in studying his development. I’ll save the next write ups for when I have more time to be considerate in my posts- though despite my admiration for late-period Chabrol, I don’t have as much to say about them compared to his earlier years, save for a few that’ll benefit from more reflection.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#10 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Jun 02, 2019 3:44 am

A couple of little snippets gleaned from earlier posts added to the discussion partly out of laziness and to avoid repeating myself.
Les Cousins also boasts a top notch Adrian Martin commentary . As Dom notes Chabrol's aces in the pack thrillers are between 1969-72 but it's worth seeking out Chabrol's collaborations with Paul Gégauff as screenwriter for what he called someone to sprinkle a bit of 'ginger' on the affair.
'Les Bonnes Femmes' is archetypal NV fare with its absurd mix of humour and melodrama on the streets of Paris.
' L'Oeuil Malin' has a Pinteresque edge in a story of the disruption of a bourgeois couple by a younger interloper.
Despite having a strong cast and revenge plot premise I found 'Les Godelureaux' a bit flat in tone and uneven in pace but Ill give it another go one day.
Chabrol considers Oeuil du Malin, Godelureaux and Ophelia as his joint ticket out of the Nouvelle Vague and into his period of 'shame'. Each had a chronic fall in sales with Ophelia weighing in at only 12,000 seats sold.
I think it's possible to view these as an interesting trilogy of destruction with each central character's target the perceived love rival, the bourgeoisie en masse and the singular bourgeois family in turn. It would definitely be destructive in career terms if nothing else. Personally I find Ophelia mildly amusing if only to see André' Jocelyn's simpering Nelly take on Brialy's Situationist prankster role and try and bring his household crashing down around him in mock Hamlet style.

Since I am now laid up with a leg in plaster I hope to get stuck in to a serious resumé of Chabrol and put some flesh on this skimpy stuff

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#11 Post by knives » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:23 am

Chabrol's not just my favorite of the New Wave directors, but possibly my favorite French director period. It's hard to think of any director that so well, especially later in his career, was able to make artistic and personalized films in a purely commercial mode. That more than the corpses is hos inheritance from Hitchock. I wrote up on a lot of his films in the New Wave list and highly recommend people read those for some quick thoughts.

Also for true virgins fortunately in high quality editions, so glad I can now say that, many of Chabrol's best films are streaming. Kanopy has ten from Kino and Cohen streaming while Hoopla has that Fantomas series. It's super easy to get to the minimum here so I really do expect every forum member to pitch in at least that much for one of the most purely entertaining experiences this forum will force on you.

Just some stray thoughts on some titles that will probably make my list: The Ceremony isn't my favorite Chabrol, but it is as representative of him as The Searchers is of Ford. If you want to see the true essence of a filmmaker you have to search this out.
Cry of the Owl already has gotten some nice talk, but the best selling point has yet to be mentioned. The film is basically a reversal of The Purple Rose of Cairo where the identification with the movie makes you a character!
The Beast Must Die is perhaps his most wickedly villainous film with a cruel edge that will make you cackle. It becomes a Diogenesian morality play where society gets in the way of the obvious solution.
Nada is in my opinion the best of the million left wing films criticizing the Baader Meinhof Complex and similar groups in the era. It is also, as is so wonderfully common in Chabrol, a hilarious look at desire run amok.
Masques is probably his most beautiful film Chabrol every made with the whole exercise an excuse for tableaux.
The Story of Women is Vera Drake done right while La rupture is, strangely, Chabrol's most sensitive look at the desires and impulses that he's taken advantage of throughout his career.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#12 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:47 am

That’s funny, like Les fantômes du chapelier, I’d argue Masques exists solely to let an established French actor have the time of their life chewing scenery (there Michel Serrault, here Philippe Noiret). I don’t even remember a single aspect of the film outside of Noiret’s incredible showboating, I’ll have to keep an open mind for its other virtues while revisiting since you and therewillbeblus seem to rate it higher than I currently do (though I greatly enjoy both for the over the top performances)

Re: Paul Gégauff, I had to chuckle that he didn’t take his name off the rewrite for Les novices. The film is truly awful in a top-down fashion that watching and trying to figure which parts are Chabrol and which aren’t is pointless (though Zardi makes one scene easy to identify!). If you think the idea of BB as a nun and Annie Giradot as a prostitute (talk about backwards casting) becoming best buds sounds like a laff riot, well, then you have a lot in common with whoever financed this train wreck. There’s even a stray dog that has the third most screen time and does the whole “Timmy fell down the well” routine, to give you some idea how desperate this movie is

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#13 Post by knives » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:05 pm

The sheer physicality of his performance I definitely would argue as part of the bordering on kitsch aesthetic of the thing. It's a very '80s ride.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#14 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:22 pm

Speaking of performances, if you want to see two of the worst to ever appear in a Chabrol film, Jodie Foster and Sam Neill have you covered in the Blood of Others. I have no defense as to what happened here, as I’m pretty sure Foster speaks French so she could have easily communicated with Chabrol to get the perf right... As is, despite name recognition they are both astonishingly bad and I’m not sure if the language barrier is to blame or if Chabrol was just not all that interested in this project in the first place or if there’s just no “good” way to play these two trite cliche characters anyways. Another one for the bottom tier of the rankings, so don’t feel bad if you can’t find a copy in time

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#15 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:32 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:22 pm
I’m pretty sure Foster speaks French so she could have easily communicated with Chabrol to get the perf right...
Foster speaks fluent French and went to a Swiss finishing school. She has appeared on French TV chat shows and more than holds her own.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#16 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Jun 02, 2019 12:36 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:47 am
That’s funny, like Les fantômes du chapelier, I’d argue Masques exists solely to let an established French actor have the time of their life chewing scenery (there Michel Serrault, here Philippe Noiret).
I love Les fantômes and imagine Cha-Cha tittering away as Serrault torments and belittles Aznavour

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#17 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:40 pm

knives, I’d like to hear more of your thought on Masques, but I think I agree in how Chabrol uses everything at his disposable -including an excellent story, script, performances, technique and a haunting score- to create an incredibly well-rounded effort, one of his best uses of mise en scène, along with Le Cri du hibou. In a way this as a quasi-reworking of Hitchcock’s Rebecca from an alternate vantage point in the mold of a cat-and-mouse comedy-thriller, and an energetic surge of sinister slow-burn mystery. I recall Chabrol keeping his camera predominantly in tight quarters, creating a claustrophobic feel even in outdoor spaces- filming characters under dangling branches that mirror ceilings, enclosed tennis courts in close-medium shots, and even the shots of the house are through pillars encasing them, as if everyone and everything is trapped in a cell (indoors characters open cabinets with wire or bars that swing in front of the camera, framing them inside), prisoners to the mood of this story. As domino said, Philippe Noiret is a standout- though his performance works so well beyond showboating to elevate an already terrific film because it’s so perfectly unreadable: confident, suave, hilarious, and thus the underlying menace that can be read into his prowess by proxy of the material is even more terrifying.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#18 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 02, 2019 4:40 pm

La Rupture (1970)
Well that’s one way to kick off a story- right in the face hooking the audience with no chance of breaking free. Chabrol actually aligns with our heroine for a while (an incredible Stéphane Audran), making us feel a deeper subjective experience of a character compared to the average thriller from this auteur. But then (per usual, especially looking at his mid 90s-00s output) he shifts perspectives again and we spend a significant amount of time with Cassel’s slimy fixer. During this bulky section, Chabrol makes no apologies soaking up time deliberately and insidiously while diving into darker waters with each scheme until reaching maximum density. Just when we think we might get a break, Chabrol introduces a new provocative element, catapulting us from any possibility of groundedness. The gravitational pull here is so intensely drawn toward menace, even compared to typical fare. We get it all here from Chabrol: family dynamics, bourgeois systemic oppression, matter-of-fact mental illness, individualism and narcissism linked, and, of course: crime, vengeance, aggression, all in the face of protective emotional parts of the internal system. Plus this movie works as simply evil fun.

Le Cri du hibou (1988)
We get more of the brief connections to characters and then abrupt disconnects emphasizing the objective camera and teasing the audience with these subjective tastes- but this time the connect-disconnect pattern is more frequent, erratic, and jarring. At moments Chabrol is channeling a Kafka story by way of Hitchcock, with claustrophobic spaces, odd angles and zoom-pans, as well as some more surreal choices in technique that could have come from a sedated Ruiz, flashes of short yet extreme bursts of disorienting style in the last act as he brings things to a boil and turns up the heat. The subjective-objective back-and-forth feels like Chabrol touching on new Hitchcock themes for him, of the voyeurism via audience as attempt to be participant ala Rear Window and Vertigo. I didn’t realize until I finally watched this a few weeks back that a professor showed us the final scene in a film class, which we analyzed at length. While I don’t remember what we talked about (this was over 10 years ago) I’m glad I forgot the title as ruining the ending of this should be a criminal offense. Between this and Masques, Chabrol crafted two of his best thrillers in between some duds in the late 80s that outdo most of his popular periods’ work (‘68-70s;’95-00s) in versatility and creativity within his typical milieu.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#19 Post by sinemadelisikiz » Sun Jun 02, 2019 6:51 pm

Surprised no one has mentioned Les Biches yet. I have many Chabrols to get to, but from what I've seen it's definitely tops. The film is about a psychosexual love affair/political power struggle. The two women essentially act as class-divided doubles and it becomes increasingly difficult for us to tell where love ends and contempt begins. Ultimately everything plays out in the cruel, devilish fashion one would expect from Chabrol. I'll have to give it a rewatch to speak in greater detail, but I recommend it.

Also I expect Les Bonnes Femmes to make my top 5. It's a satisfying corrective to other new wave films that tend to view women as an alien species to be pondered over. All the similar bits of misogyny are present, but the framing is tweaked to show how ugly this stuff is for the women who actually have to deal with it. And the film is ostensibly a comedy! Actually, it's impressive how many fantastic, complex female stories are in Chabrol's new wave films. Outside of Rozier, did anyone do it better? That thought may rest on the strength of this film alone though!

And I have a soft spot for Les Godelureaux exclusively because of it's utterly ridiculous premise. Jean-Claude Brialy (entertaining as always, being the definition of extra) concocts an overblown revenge plot just to teach a simple lesson:

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#20 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:23 pm

sinemadelisikiz wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 6:51 pm
Surprised no one has mentioned Les Biches yet. I have many Chabrols to get to, but from what I've seen it's definitely tops. The film is about a psychosexual love affair/political power struggle. The two women essentially act as class-divided doubles and it becomes increasingly difficult for us to tell where love ends and contempt begins.
As that last sentence of yours perfectly indicates, Les Biches is a great example of the director’s philosophy that we can’t truly ‘know’ others, presenting the dynamic between two women as deep and vague enough to tell us everything we need to know, yet nothing concrete (before adding another variable into the equation in the form of a male as sexual object to create a triangular relationship). The characters’ mannerisms provide hints but are deliberately stale as canvases for our own thoughts. We see all three as emotionally-based beings, as humans are - a piece of psychology that Chabrol emphasizes over the cognitive, which is forward-thinking and unusual for psychological thrillers, a genre that often contains much more focus on reason and (irrational perhaps) concrete rationalization. The meditation on action as a product of emotional parts, fears, doubts, insecurities and negative core beliefs exposed- or the worry of them being exposed- to vulnerability, is accurate and these emotions drive the sexuality in the film as well, not vice versa as many movies incorrectly assume a reverse connection. I enjoyed the performances a lot and their anti-cinematic authenticity, creating a barrier of insight that other more subjective and empathetic films may disrupt for the sake of coddling the audience. Whenever we see a traditionally apathetic character smile or their eyes light up, we soak it in and get as much information as we require, far more rewarding than a hokey flashback or voiceover. As usual, Chabrol’s camera doesn’t waste a shot and everything has a purpose though that purpose is intentionally flexible in achieving anti-manipulation through empathetic removal. Chabrol allows and wants us to feel emotion, but there are our own, and he want us to be aware of this. It doesn’t matter the action that results, what matters is the psychology at play, or as much as we can know about it from what any person can be given through appropriately guarded characters. The puzzle of emotion through objective action. This will almost definitely crack my top 10.

Les Godelureaux will also likely make an appearance somewhere, for the exact reasons you describe. This is a wild film, with outrageous characters, a plot sourced in irrational reactions, and we’re just along for the ride as Chabrol does extravagant romp. Acutely aware of what he’s doing, Chabrol directs scenes that spark fits of laughter and dark, surreal eyebrow-raising moments. It is a film solely interested in extremes, and of pushing the limits of these extremes to unmarked territory, aims which he succeeds in reaching and then some.

And since everyone is mentioning my favorite Chabrol I may as well post thoughts before I lose my mind trying to find the words over the next two months...

Les Bonnes Femmes
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To call this a starkly brutal look at the effects of patriarchal culture on women (the swimming pool scene is arguably the most glaring execution of this theme I’ve seen) would be accurate but facile in exploring all that this is. The opening few minutes of this masterpiece are a peculiar type of disorienting, transcending any expectations of how cinema can or should be with tactful stylistic choices, that it becomes suspenseful despite no apparent reason for us to be suspended (key word is “apparent” since we soon find out that our instincts were right in a harrowing, claustrophobic scene that immediately follows what may be the best, and most honest, depiction of a party put on celluloid). This is a genre and mood bending rollercoaster ride with characters that feel real and developed, yet mysterious and unknown, depending on the situation and what Chabrol and his camera are trying to get from the scene. There are Rozier/Deville-level moments of generous narrative space in scenes like the zoo, where characters are just hanging out in a playful atmosphere, and meticulously directed Hitchcockian scenes like a late one in the woods that are so suspenseful I literally stopped breathing, unaware until the scene was over allowing physiological awareness to return. Sure, this could summarize other French New Wave films, but there is something different in the air. Chabrol is experimenting broadly with choices in technique while flexing his mastery, like a lively youth who knows how to funnel his impulses through veteran tendencies. What sounds like an oxymoron is anything but: Here is a film that never recovers from its opening because Chabrol refuses to allow a second of lull, fusing these diverse temperaments into something that feels effortless, vibrant, and alive, resulting in one of the most interesting, self-assured, and just plain fun-to-watch films in or out of the nouvelle vague, period. I still have plenty more films to go, but I can’t imagine anything knocking this from the top spot of my own list come end of July.
[Note: I’ve only seen a copy of the longer French version, not the one available in the U.S. and I’m not sure if these edits/added/alternate sequences make a difference or what they even are. Apologies if I spoke to any details or scenes not in the other versions.]

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

#21 Post by knives » Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:39 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:40 pm
knives, I’d like to hear more of your thought on Masques, but I think I agree in how Chabrol uses everything at his disposable -including an excellent story, script, performances, technique and a haunting score- to create an incredibly well-rounded effort, one of his best uses of mise en scène, along with Le Cri du hibou. In a way this as a quasi-reworking of Hitchcock’s Rebecca from an alternate vantage point in the mold of a cat-and-mouse comedy-thriller, and an energetic surge of sinister slow-burn mystery. I recall Chabrol keeping his camera predominantly in tight quarters, creating a claustrophobic feel even in outdoor spaces- filming characters under dangling branches that mirror ceilings, enclosed tennis courts in close-medium shots, and even the shots of the house are through pillars encasing them, as if everyone and everything is trapped in a cell (indoors characters open cabinets with wire or bars that swing in front of the camera, framing them inside), prisoners to the mood of this story. As domino said, Philippe Noiret is a standout- though his performance works so well beyond showboating to elevate an already terrific film because it’s so perfectly unreadable: confident, suave, hilarious, and thus the underlying menace that can be read into his prowess by proxy of the material is even more terrifying.
I've only seen it once so anything I could say comes from the power of the images. I bring this up below, but I think in certain ways Topaz is the film to most radically affect Chabrol's career. Hitchcock at least always claimed his experiment there was to have the exposition come from his use of colours. That statement seems to have radically touched Chabrol who was already beginning to trend that way anyways. Colour thus becomes a thematic language for Chabrol where ideas are explained and only understood in the conspiracy of colour (now I've made Chabrol into Rivette when I meant Rosseau). Masques strikes me as the dramatic apex of that where the plot is basically incoherent babble without the key of language provided by the lush whites, blues, pinks and whatnot. I wish I could find a full scene, rather than just a fun trailer, to break down what I mean a bit. Still this trailer highlights that colour is the key.

As to some new to me films:
The Swindle
Chabrol's use of colours has always been my favorite thing about him and this gorgeous film illustrates all new concepts for his inky storytelling. In many respects he splashes the film's narrative through colour in a matter like Hitchcock claimed he was aiming for with Topaz though Chabrol is far more successful You just need to see the opening scene of Huppert exploding in red as her skin has a porcelain look with shocking black hair. It's a image drowned in brown and blue suits that sets a tone of high danger and Huppert as an enigma. This is especially so in Chabrol's language of colours where red is catharsis and white is danger which leaves Huppert capable of anything.

All of that early tension is paid off quickly when Chabrol reveals that his genre isn't the sort of sex thrillers that were popular at the time, but rather an even more droll spin on Trouble in Paradise. Whenever the plot threatens to matter Chabrol throws in a gag or two so silly you have to laugh and forget that any of this could ever matter, yet he keeps the idea of tension floating through one very compelling editing trick. The film cuts off scenes early so that certain exposition doesn't get revealed. That's a common enough of a technique, but by making it so pronounced the film turns that into another sort of joke which half leads to the expectation that Chabrol is aiming to play things straight. Fortunately the punchline is more than that.

Betty
This Simenon adaptation sees Chabrol play at something more characteristic. It's unique trait though is its smallness. Minimalist is the wrong word for such a soapy film, but Chabrol is definitely paring down the film to the essentials of his style giving a near theatrical look at one woman. It doesn't make this is his exciting or intellectually engaging film, but all the same the power of character he imbues Betty with is strong enough to carry it in a satisfactory fashion throughout. I'll admit to crying in sympathy for Betty the imperfect woman representative of the pains and flaws of her class.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#22 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 03, 2019 7:41 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:39 pm
I'll admit to crying in sympathy for Betty the imperfect woman representative of the pains and flaws of her class.
Betty is one of the few Chabrol films I’ve seen to leave a bad taste in my mouth, and for the reasons this worked for you it’s one of the few where I felt complete apathy from this meditation on the plights of the individual trapped and affected by classist mores. Part of this has to do with how Chabrol integrates alcoholism into this story. Alcoholism is depressing, as is the self, and outwardly, destructive behavior that often accompanies the condition, but Chabrol is more interested in examining it as a symptom of existential crisis by way of sociological factors than to simply stay with the subject devoid of his typical topics of interest. This makes for a very frustrating experience, as it feels entirely unnecessary to link addiction to bourgeois discontentment and cultural exclusion (or if the latter is his primary concern, then reverse it, and I still ask why link these issues to alcoholism). As the film goes on this doesn’t seem to be about alcoholism at all, and it ends with a bleak ‘aha’ moment exposing the fragility or myth of human connection and relationships as strong or real, with the selfish individual agenda prevailing. I appreciate cynicism and existential nihilism as much as the next guy, but the execution of this was uneven, unenjoyable, and felt unaccomplished in its aims. I could be entirely missing the point, and am surely clouded in my abilities to see the film’s strengths due to having issue with the associations Chabrol seems to be making carelessly, but I can’t say that I felt anything at all for these characters and the class-effects and thematic theses presented as forced, which is very atypical for Chabrol.

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

#23 Post by knives » Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:51 pm

I was tempted to joke that this could be mistaken for an Eugene O'Neil play vis a vis the shots of whiskey drunk in each shot. I don't think he is, or possibly Simenon, linking class struggle with alcoholism. Rather he is saying that it is just as much a 'logical' reaction to social organizations as his more typical murder is. In a sense alcohol is a symbol of suicide. As a result I don't view the ending with its either or as nihilist and certainly not cynical. Rather, a lot of those in this post, as saying that the causes of death can produce an artificial life. The film offers an alternative ending. The Hollywood one of lovers reunited with the evil matriarch, society, removed from the picture. Such a movie as All That Heaven Allows, but that is a lie and the ending we get highlights how cruel that would have been. Instead Chabrol seems to suggest that to kill the confines of a structure some sacrifice must be made. While Betty is clearly not a good person in an absolutist sense, undermining moral dogma which I believe to be Chabrol's theme of life, for her 'murder' of her only true friend there is no other way for her to achieve liberty without going mad like the lead of Brazil though I suppose you could argue she's freed herself in a similar way. On one hand I hate Betty for her violence on the other I pity her for her need to be violent.

To backtrack a bit I am connecting this film's use of alcohol to Chabrol's use of violence elsewhere. Perhaps that makes it an even more tasteless film, but is alcoholism any less serious a subject to blaspheme as the point of symbols than murder? If anything he treats it much more respectfully here given the dour presentation whereas death at a hand is regularly a topic of humour in Chabrol. I'm not sure if this helps at all, I know Domino also isn't a fan and I watched the movie with that in mind, but these half formed ideas strike me as getting close to where Chabrol is coming from.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#24 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:52 pm

knives wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 9:51 pm
Instead Chabrol seems to suggest that to kill the confines of a structure some sacrifice must be made. While Betty is clearly not a good person in an absolutist sense, undermining moral dogma which I believe to be Chabrol's theme of life, for her 'murder' of her only true friend there is no other way for her to achieve liberty without going mad like the lead of Brazil though I suppose you could argue she's freed herself in a similar way. On one hand I hate Betty for her violence on the other I pity her for her need to be violent.
This analysis makes sense to me, and your ability to hold two opposing feelings on Betty is what I love about Chabrol and his strengths in staying objective but also getting just close enough to allow that sympathetic flexibility- which I feel for many of his other characters just not here. I suppose my issue with the alcoholism link is that it felt too on-the-nose and offensive in its disregard for delving into the complexity of the illness, brushing it under the rug so to speak, compared to murder where Chabrol can often paint more complicated portraits of the processes at work in killing another in sync with the emotional. Perhaps it’s that one is a mental illness and the other is an emotional act so the fusing of the parts comes across as simpler in the latter [tying emotional (acute act) to emotion (sociological) vs. biological-emotional (mental illness-i.e. alcoholism) to emotion (sociological)]-which is not to say that murder isn’t as complicated but that Chabrol works with it on a very complicated but strictly emotional scale sans extra diagnostic component (he doesn’t play with DSM diagnoses like antisocial personality disorder or other common cinematic ‘killer’ pathologies). Psychology is of course present but blended with emotions (true to real life), often displayed with minimal affect but emotion all the same. I agree that as Chabrol sees it it’s not intending to be offensive and is, as you say, a suicidal action vs. homicidal action (in the majority of his films), as a response to an internal eruption of emotional dysregulation from social/class conflict, and from that unskewed perspective it can work to serve its purpose.

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Re: Auteur List: Claude Chabrol - Discussion and Defenses

#25 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:20 am

Well, ’til I watch Kino's Blu-ray of the Champagne Murders next month, I've now seen every Chabrol film that is possible to see-- 69 movies by my count, and soon to be 70, though I may have missed one or two with a number that high!

Let's start with the good news first: I've long considered Bellamy a mediocre note for such a master as Chabrol to go out on. But, turns out that wasn't his last film... Chabrol's last films were two hour-long adaptations of a pair of ancient mysteries, and both give us the Chabrol we know and love and serve as a fitting finish I thought Chabrol was denied! Made for the Au siècle de Maupassant: Contes et nouvelles du XIXème siècle series, the first Le petit vieux des Batignolles (2009), finds Pierre Arditi on a rare jaunt away from Resnais as a Sherlock/Lavardin hybrid detective, who enlists a hapless young medical student to be his Watson whether he likes it or not! I was struck once again by Chabrol's ambivalent treatment of his detectives, who always seem to teeter between admirable know-it-alls and assholes who like to use knowing it all to fuck with innocents (see whichever Lavardin movie has him messing with the hotel employee during the entire movie for the best and most hilarious evidence of this). But even better-- listworthy better-- is Chabrol's swan song, Le fauteuil hanté (2010), which not only caps one of Chabrol's great cinematic loves (the film features the journalist Fandor from Fantômas in a supporting role) but gives us what must be his funniest film-- rewatching his comic shorts recently, I can confirm that while Chabrol has a wicked sense of humor, like Hitchcock this doesn't always translate to effective comedy when the primary focus. But this one's a riot, a mashed up murder mystery in which new members of the Académie française keep turning up dead, resulting in the org picking an unlikely candidate whose election becomes a riotous punchline halfway through when he reveals a secret Chabrol had once mined for drama earlier in his career! Once we enter the promised era of Chabrol restorations and mass Blu-ray releases of all his works, let's hope these show up as bonuses or even as a dedicated two-film set-- they are sad evidence that Chabrol was taken from us at the height of his powers. Also Le fauteuil hanté features discussion of the Illuminati by name, so feel free to start your conspiracy theories on Chabrol's untimely end!

Dr M (1990) and Fantômas (1980)-- Chabrol's pastiche films of Mabuse and, well, Fantômas, respectively-- are interesting, but Fantômas is the more successful of the two. Chabrol only directed the first and fourth feature-length installments, but the casting of Helmut Berger as the titular thief and Jacques Dufilho (Carrying over the casting of a comic French actor in the Juve role from the 60s adaptations) is consistent, and there’s something of an overarching story (and Bunuel's entries are about as good as Chabrol's, really). The first three installments give us much of the same serial points as the original Feuillade films with some fun differences. But the fourth presents us with a different last act, and I must say of the lot I by far favored this last tale of a kidnapped king, mistaken royal identity, and a priceless Hungarian jewel, though I liked the long sequence in the first installment in which Chabrol slavers over a complete tutorial in how to set up a guillotine— a process that honestly never occurred to me to be something I wanted to know, but was glad to learn! Dr M 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.

I’m curious to see the English-version of Le scandale (1967), because the French version’s dialogue and plot mechanations by Paul Gégauff are sleep-inducing— the English version’s dialog was written by a pair of American film critics selected by Chabrol, so I’m curious to see where they steer the film within the same plot perimeters. However, the last twenty minutes of Le scandale self-correct marvelously— the basic plot is Maurice Ronet (in a truly abrasive perf) continuously blacks out and finds himself in the general vicinity of murdered women, so no points for guessing there’s a twist and who’s involved, though perhaps extra points could be awarded for also guessing who’s not— but then the ending hits like a TKO and I was completely stunned at the confident audacity of the INSANE finale. When the screen went black and I realized that was the ending, I can’t even tell you how much joy it gave me. This may be, in a career filled with amazing and sudden endings, his masterpiece in this (and only this) regard. And it’s my understanding that the ending is one of the big differences between the French and English versions— of course the Americans would fuck this perfection up! I’ll weigh in more on the differences (the American version is also heavily cut for content against Chabrol’s wishes) next month. Other than the ending, my biggest takeaway from Le scandale was legit appreciation for Henry Jones’ fluent French skillz!

L'oeil de Vichy (1993) is Chabrol’s only documentary as a director, and it shows a heavy influence from Chabrol’s own beloved Mein Kampf, Erwin Leiser's Hitler doc which likewise consisted of existing footage arranged to tell a historical story— here in Chabrol's film, the image of Vichy France as forced down the throats of the French. The copious propaganda viewed in snippets and excerpts is fascinating— other than some errant narration to explain context here or there (by Brian Cox in the English version— Michel Bouquet does this duty in the original French version, unheard by me), everything we get comes from this footage created to play before movies in theatres. Apart from all the expected horrors of anti-Semitism, Nazi brown-nosing, and Allied-bashing, there’s also a truly terrifying newsreel bragging about how Occupied France was melting down all American films to make nail polish!

And of course, here’s my Zardi Sightings from recent viewings and rewatches:

L'Homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel: Eiffel Tower guard

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Le scandale (1967): Red-shirted ruffian

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Fantômas: Train porter

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