domino harvey wrote: ↑
Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:32 am
Sorry to say I can't join in on the love fest for Juste avant la nuit
, which for many years I forgot even existed-- until I arranged reviewings for this project, I realized I'd mentally combined it with the very similar Les noces rouges
. I think that one does a superior job at offering the same kind of peek at the extremes of rigid bourgeois conventions, and delivers a scenario in which the stifling trap of social conventions leads to murder rather than rendering said act meaningless.
I see your point, and when looking through the lens of bourgeois conventions affecting the range of actions from murder to confession, Les noces rouges
is the more well suited example of that idea. There is more meaning in the crime and Chabrol’s cheeky irony delivers one hell of a punchline when
the lovers confess to authorities and honestly respond to the police about their lack of imaginative creativity in how to preserve their love by leaving their social structure: a simple solution only people clouded with an inability to perceive surrendering customs of societal status coupled with an absence of original thought could fail to access, even on a subconscious level! That they robotically follow the polite laws of high society in their blunt confessions, telling the truth but for the most inauthentic reasons, begets Chabrol’s optimum paradoxical joke, heaping the icing on the cake in piles.
However, since I view Juste avant la nuit
as a much more complexly layered film than this one beyond these bourgeois links to murder and confession, I still find it to be far superior and see these films as very different from one another. Ultimately what separates these films for me is that in Les noces rouges
there is meaning in everything: the murders, the confessions, the actions along the way, and all are tied to an exposition on bourgeois ideas and attitudes. In Juste avant la nuit
the meaningless act that kicks off the plot is, in my eyes, the film’s strongest asset and is what moves it beyond Chabrol’s other films as it becomes both about these bourgeois conventions and the more psychologically dense processes one faces when grasping for meaning in a meaningless act, culture, social environment, and so on. Les noces rouges
isn’t interested in this depth, which is not to say that it’s “simple” or a weaker film in achieving its aims, but those aims are more concrete, clear, and concise, interested in remaining cosily within the film itself. Juste avant la nuit
isn’t satisfied with staying in these restraints and as our surrogate character becomes enveloped in the existentially shattering darkness that leaves his head spinning the more he engages in asking these questions, consequently the more questions there become and the less clear the film’s intentions are, placing us (or at least me!) right there with him. Disguised as another one of his moral relativity plays on social customs, it is in this meaningless act that Chabrol throws a wrench in his signature wheel and allows himself and us to become completely undone, hurling toward the stars while still fitting in his thesis of life as impossible to comprehended in its complexity and how that truth elicits unbalance in its subjects. I don’t know how purposeful or accidental Chabrol went about carving this dense piece of charred discomfort but he succeeded for at least one person regardless of his intentions!
As for Les noces rouges
, there is a lot to like that I won’t do service in highlighting by comparing it to a film I not only like far more but don’t recognize the same strengths between or apply the same degree of thematic analytical processes to! This film is special in its ability to find percipient methods to subvert expectations; while keeping us mostly at a disconnected distance to the characters as par for the course for Chabrol, he snaps us into the dance of binding and unbinding to emotional connection with them in more surprising ways than usual. Three examples from the film come to mind, though I’m sure there are more. The shot of the sun shining off of the lake in the first scene of passion between Piccoli and Audran, a bright light in a cold film, could be viewed as obvious and intrusive use of mise-en-scene, but instead is inserted so passively without emphasis that only after the film ends do we remember how cold and dark it was. The sun becomes less apparent after each tryst we see outside, darkening the environment, and then even less light when they move indoors. The more the characters act with cognitive dissonance, the deeper the characters move from open spaces into closer quarters inside closed spaces (bourgeois homes) creating visual-spatial claustrophobia to express what the characters can not.
The second scene is one of an unexpected emotional surge of passion between Piccoli and Audran. The way they pull at one another and their faces, particularly Audran’s, looks pained and full of love and desire all at once, is a perfect summation of explosive emotional dysregulation that occurs when one has no ability to recognize or simplify their emotional response, and Chabrol wisely just allows this to be, and forces us to sit with that reality sans explanation.
Lastly there is Audran’s daughter, which adds an emotional element that awakens her and us to the effects actions have on innocents, hostages taken in the comings and goings of human behavior. Chabrol doesn’t judge his characters but he slyly lets us know that even if he or we cannot be god and pass this judgment, harm occurs. He frequently meditates on this truth as the price of admission for existing in a social world, but here gives more space for the relationship to flesh out instead of reverting to the message alone, inserting atypical doses of compassion into an otherwise typically objective approach. I liked this film quite a bit but it landed somewhere in the middle of Chabrol’s filmography for me, which still makes it a very good movie.