Friday, March 26, 2010

Claude Chabrol Collection volume 2

There are 6 movies in this collection:

1. La route de Corinthe (1967)
What I like about this movie is that it's located in Greece. I rarely see a movie with the ruins of Acropolis as background. Compared with other Claude Chabrol works I've seen, La route of Corinthe has more sense of humour, like the scenes with the magician. I also think this spy story is more like Georges Lautner's instead of Claude Chabrol's. An American spy is killed before reporting to his boss (Michel Bouquet) - who is disguised as a Turkish Delight seller - about his finding concerning mysterious black boxes in Greece which can jam missile radar. His widow, Shanny, played by Jean Seberg, is the prime suspect and sent to jail. She faces repatriation, but determines to stay to prove her innocent and continue her husband's work. I am never aware that the relationship between Greece and America is not good, so the plot is rather strange for me. Maurice Ronet plays the late husband's friend and colleague. At first he opposes Shanny and supports his boss to ship her back to America. He doesn't believe her story about her husband's finding. He suddenly changes his mind and helps her.

2. La rupture (1970)
Claude Chabrol apparently loves the names of Charles and Hélène as a couple. Hélène (Stéphane Audran) wants to divorce her husband Charles, a drug addict, after a violent row where he hurt their son. Soon after the kid got out from the hospital, Hélène will take him to Paris for a new life. Her rich father-in-law (Michel Bouquet) wants to get the child custody and hires a private detective (Jean-Pierre Cassel) to damage Hélène's reputation. However, although desperate, Hélène is a strong woman and it's not easy to discredit her.

3. Une partie de plaisir (1975)
Philippe (Paul Gégauff) and Esther (Danièle Gegauff- Paul's ex-wife) are a happy couple, with their little daughter Elise. One day, Paul admits to his wife that he has had several affairs and she is welcomed to do the same. Esther then meets Habib and starts her affair. Paul doesn't like Habib and his friends because they are different from him (their thinking, their skin colour) and is angry to Esther, accusing her that she has been involved too much with Habib and neglected Paul and their daughter. After being humiliated, Esther runs away. Paul remarries, but cannot forget Esther. Although he often despised her in the past, he realizes that he cannot live without her. It's like in My Fair Lady: "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". In his last attempt to get Esther back, he goes crazy and attacks her so that "If I can't have her, no one else can have her."

4. Les innocents aux mains sales (1975)
This one has excellent plot twists. Romy Schneider plays Julie, whose husband is 18 years her senior and rich (of course!). This husband (Rod Steiger) hasn't touched her for years and it's easy to guess that she takes a lover (Paolo Giusti). She plots with her lover to kill the husband and run away with the money. It sounds like 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', but there is much more to the story. Julie's plan doesn't go well, for suddenly she realizes that she has been left alone and the police suspect her at once. Jean Rochefort animates the screen with his presence as Julie's lawyer. He tells the judge to let her go for in this case there is no victim, no motive (money), and no suspect. The police in this movie are very smart, that it annoyed me because they can guess everything [I wanted Julie not to get caught]. It's a rare thing: smart police in a movie not about police. With solid cast & good script, this movie has easily become my most favourite among all Chabrol's works I've seen.

I think Jean Rochefort was trying to get in the frame.

5. Poulet au vinaigre (1985)
The whole thing runs at a slow place in the beginning before the inspector arrives and on first viewing, I was confused with the names. Stéphane Audran plays Madame Cuno, an invalid widow who lives with her only son Louis. Three men: a butcher, a lawyer and a doctor want to buy her house and demolish it. Madame Cuno refuses and the 3 men intimidate her and her son. The war begins. Louis spends his spare time (he works as a postman) to spy on the 3 men. When the butcher dies in a car accident, Inspector Jean Lavardin (played by Jean Poiret) investigates. His method is harsh and he can even have the heart to torture the old lawyer (Michel Bouquet). Although after the torture the lawyer tells him a helpful little secret, it's actually thanks to his intelligence that he can solve the case. The trailer shows Claude Chabrol serving something (presumably chicken with vinegar) on a tray. He is opening the lid. [see pic below] 'Poulet' can also means 'cop' and in this case points to Inspector Lavardin, a new ingredient in Chabrol's movies.

6. La fleur du mal (2003)
The song Un souvenir in the beginning of the movie hints that the past has something to do with the story. After 3 years in America, François returns to his family in France. He still cannot stand his father, his step-mother is running for the municipal election, his step-sister is more beautiful and in love with him and vice-versa. There are pamphlets which denigrate the step-mother via the family's defaults. Two strong female characters stand out in this movie. The first is Anne, the step-mother, wonderfully played by Nathalie Baye. Anne and her right hand Matthieu knock each door of every tenant in an apartment which she has helped in realizing to build, and the way she keeps smiling - the way a politician should be before election. The other strong female character is Aunt Line, played by Suzanne Flon - whom I usually see in the background. Here she has a bigger role, and it's lovely to see her, as amiable aunt, who is always warm towards anybody, although she is haunted by the past and carries a heavy load on her shoulders. La fleur du mal is a nice movie - and compared to others in this box set, this has the most beautiful appearance as it's the latest - and it ends well.

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