Claude Chabrol - Director





Nationality: French. Born: Paris, 24 June 1930. Education: University of Paris, Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques. Family: Married 1) Agnes Goute, 1952 (divorced), two sons; 2) actress Stéphane Audran, 1964 (divorced), one son; 3) Aurore Pajot. Career: Film critic for Arts and for Cahiers du Cinéma , Paris, 1953–57 (under own name and as "Charles Eitel" and "Jean-Yves Goute"); Head of production company AJYM, 1956–61; directed first film, Le Beau Serge , 1958; director, Macbeth , Théâtre Recamier, Paris, 1967; director, French TV, 1970s. Awards: Golden Bear, Berlin Festival, for Les Cousins , 1959; D. W. Griffith Award, National Board of Review, and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Film, for Story of Women , 1989; Metro Media Award, Toronto International Film Festival, 1995, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Foreign Language Film, National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Language Film, both 1996, for La cérémonie ; Golden Seashell and Silver Seashell, San Sebastián International Film Festival, for Rien ne va plus , 1997. Agent: c/o VMA, 40 rue Francois 1er, 75008 Paris, France. Address: 15 Quai Conti, 75006 Paris, France.

Films as Director:

1958

Le Beau Serge ( Bitter Reunion ) (+ pr, sc, bit role)

1959

Les Cousins ( The Cousins ) (+ pr, sc); A double tour ( Web of Passion ; Leda ) (+ bit role)

1960

Les Bonnes Femmes (+ adapt, bit role)

1961

Les Godelureaux (+ co-adapt, bit role); "L'Avarice" episode of Les Sept Péchés capitaux ( The Seven Deadly Sins ) (+ bit role)

1962

L'œil du malin ( The Third Lover ) (+ sc); Ophélia (+ co-sc)

1963

Landru ( Bluebeard ) (+ co-sc)

1964

"L'Homme qui vendit la tour Eiffel" episode of Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du monde ( The Beautiful Swindlers ); Le Tigre aime la chair fraîche ( The Tiger Likes Fresh Blood ); La Chance et l'amour (Tavernier, Schlumberger, Bitsch, and Berry) (d linking sequences only)

1965

"La Muette" episode of Paris vu par . . . ( Six in Paris ) (+ sc, role); Marie-Chantal contre le Docteur Kha (+ co-sc, bit role); Le Tigre se parfume à la dynamite ( An Orchid for the Tiger ) (+ bit role)

1966

La Ligne de démarcation ( Line of Demarcation ) (+ co-sc)

1967

Le Scandale ( The Champagne Murders ); La Route de Corinthe ( Who's Got the Black Box? ; The Road to Corinth ) (+ role)

1968

Les Biches ( The Does ; The Girlfriends ; Bad Girls ) (+ co-sc, role)

1969

La Femme infidèle ( Unfaithful Wife ) (+ co-sc): Que la bête meure ( This Man Must Die ; Killer! )

1970

Le Boucher (+ sc); La Rupture ( Le Jour des parques ; The Breakup ) (+ sc, bit role)

1971

Juste avant la nuit ( Just before Nightfall ) (+ sc)

1972

La Décade prodigieuse ( Ten Days' Wonder ) (+ co-sc); Docteur Popaul ( High Heels ) (+ co-song); De Grey—Le Banc de Desolation (for TV)

1973

Les Noces rouges ( Wedding in Blood ) (+ sc)

1974

Nada ( The NADA Gang ); Histoires insolites (series of 4 TV films)

1975

Une Partie de plaisir ( A Piece of Pleasure ; Pleasure Party ); Les Innocents aux mains sales ( Dirty Hands ; Innocents with Dirty Hands ) (+ sc); Les Magiciens ( Initiation à la mort ; Profezia di un delitto )

1976

Folies bourgeoises ( The Twist ) (+ co-sc)

1977

Alice ou La Dernière Fugue ( Alice or the Last Escapade ) (+ sc)

1978

Blood Relatives ( Les Liens de sang ) (+ co-sc); Violette Nozière ( Violette )

1980

Le Cheval d'Orgueil ( The Horse of Pride ; The Proud Ones )

1982

Les Fantômes du chapelier ( The Hatmaker )

1983

Le Sang des autres ( The Blood of Others )

1984

Poulet au vinaigre ( Coq au Vin ) (+ co-sc)

1985

Inspecteur Lavardin (+co-sc)

1986

Masques (+ co-sc)

1987

Le cri du hibou ( The Cry of the Owl )

1989

Une Affaire des femmes ( Story of Women ) (+ sc)

1990

Jours tranquilles a Clichy ( Quiet Days in Clichy ) (+ sc); Docteur M ( Club Extinction ) (+sc)

1991

Madame Bovary (+ sc)

1993

Bette (+sc); L'oeil de Vichy ( The Eye of the Vichy ) (doc)

1994

L'enfer ( Hell )

Claude Chabrol
Claude Chabrol

1995

Le ceremonie ( The Ceremony ); A Judgment in Stone (+ sc)

1997

Rien ne va plus ( The Swindle ) (+ sc)

1999

Au coeur du mensonge ( The Color of Lies ) (+ co-sc)

2000

Merci pour le chocolat (+ co-sc)




Other Films:

1956

Le Coup de berger (Rivette) (co-sc, uncred co-mu, role)

1959

A bout de souffle (Godard) (tech adv); Les Jeux de l'amour (de Broca) (role)

1960

Paris nour appartient (Rivette) (role); Saint-Tropez blues (Moussy) (role); Les Distractions (Dupont) (role)

1961

Ples v dezju ( Dance in the Rain ) (Hladnik) (supervisor); Les Menteurs (Greville) (role)

1964

Les Durs à cuire (Pinoteau) (role)

1965

Brigitte et Brigitte (Moullet) (role)

1966

Happening (Bokanowski) (tech adv); Zoe bonne (Deval) (role)

1968

La Femme ecarlate (Valere) (role)

1969

Et crac! (Douchet) (role); Version latine (Detre) (role); Le Travail (Detre) (role)

1970

Sortie de secours (Kahane) (role)

1971

Eglantine (Brialy) (tech adv); Aussi loin que l'amour (Rossif) (role)

1972

Piège à pucelles (Leroi) (tech adv); Un Meurtre est un meurtre (Périer) (role)

1973

Le Flipping (Volatron) (role as interviewee)

1987

Sale destin! (Sylvain Madigan) (role)

1992

Sam Suffit (role as Mr. Denis)

1993

Jean Renoir (Thompson); François Truffaut: Portraits volés ( François Truffaut: Stolen Portraits

1997

Cannesples 400 coups (Nadeau—for TV) (as himself)



Publications


By CHABROL: books—

Hitchcock , with Eric Rohmer, Paris, 1957.

La Femme Infidele , Paris, 1969.

Les Noces rouges , Paris, 1973.

Et pourtant, je tourne. . . , Paris, 1976.

L'adieu aux dieux (novel), Paris, 1980.

Autour d'Emma: Madame Bovary, un film de Claude Chabrol ,

Paris, 1991.

By CHABROL: articles—

Regular contributor to Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), under pseudonyms "Charles Eitel" and "Jean-Yves Goute," 1950s.

"Tout ce qu'il faut savoir pour mettre en scène s'apprend en quatre heures," an interview with François Truffaut, in Arts (Paris), 19 February 1958.

"Vers un néo-romanticisme au cinéma," in Lettres Françaises (Paris), March 1959.

"Big Subjects, Little Subjects," in Movie (London), June 1962.

Interview with Gilles Jacob, in Cinéma (Paris), September/October 1966.

"Claude Chabrol," in Interviews with Film Directors , edited by Andrew Sarris, New York, 1967.

Articles anthologized in The New Wave , edited by Peter Graham, New York, 1968.

" La Femme Infidèle ," and " La Muette ," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), no. 42, 1969.

Interview with Michel Ciment and others, in Positif (Paris), April 1970.

Interview with Noah James, in Take One (Montreal), September/October 1970.

Interview with Rui Nogueira, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1970/71.

Interview with M. Rosier and D. Serceau, in Cinéma (Paris), September/October 1973.

Interviews with G. Braucourt, in Ecran (Paris), May 1975 and February 1977.

"Chabrol's Game of Mirrors," an interview with D. Overbey, in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1977.

"The Magical Mystery World of Claude Chabrol," an interview with Dan Yakir, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), no. 3, 1979.

"I Fell in Love with Violette Nozière," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), April 1979.

Interview with D. Simmons, in Film Directions (Belfast), vol. 5, no. 18, 1983.

Conversation with Georges Simenon, in Filmkritik (Munich), February 1983.

Interview with Jill Forbes, in Stills (London), June/July 1984.

"Jeu de massacre: Attention les yeux," an interview with Pierre Bonitzer and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1986.

"Chabrol by Chance," an interview with Claudio Lazzaro, in World Press Review , October 1988.

"Entretiens avec Claude Chabrol," an interview in Cahiers du Cinéma , December 1989.

"Conversazione con Claude Chabrol," an interview with P. Vernaglione, in Filmcritica , March 1989.

"Entretien avec Claude Chabrol," an interview with T. Jousse and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma , November 1990.

"Histoires de fuites," in Cahiers du Cinéma , May 1991.

"Entretien avec Claude Chabrol," an interview with T. Jousse and S. Toubiana, in Cahiers du Cinéma , March 1992.

"La Grande Manipulation," an interview with Pierre Murat and Isabelle Danel, in Télérama (Paris), 10 March 1993.

"Hell's Angel," an interview with Tom Charity, in Time Out (London), 19 October 1994.

"Oskuld, mord och en kopp te," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 38, no.4, 1996.

"Chabrol's 'Ceremonie'," in Film Journal (New York), January/February 1997.

On CHABROL: books—

Armes, Roy, French Cinema since 1946: Vol.2—The Personal Style , New York, 1966.

Wood, Robin, and Michael Walker, Claude Chabrol , London, 1970.

Braucourt, Guy, Claude Chabrol , Paris, 1971.

Monaco, James, The New Wave , New York, 1976.

Moscariello, Angelo, Chabrol , Firenze, 1976.

Grongaard, Peter, Chabrols Filmkunst , Kobenhavn, 1977.

Magny, Joel, Claude Chabrol , Paris, 1987.

Derry, Charles, The Suspense Thriller: Films in the Shadow of Alfred Hitchcock , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1988.

Blanchet, Christian, Claude Chabrol , Paris, 1989.

Austin, Guy, Claude Chabrol, Autoportrait , Manchester, 1999.


On CHABROL: articles—

"New Wave" issue of Cinéma (Paris), February 1960.

"Chabrol Issue" of Movie (London), June 1963.

Gow, Gordon, "The Films of Claude Chabrol," in Films and Filming (London), March 1967.

Baxter, Brian, "Claude Chabrol," in Film (London), Spring 1969.

"Chabrol Issue" of L'Avant-scène du Cinéma (Paris), May 1969.

Wood, Robin, "Chabrol and Truffaut," in Movie (London), Winter 1969/70.

Allen, Don, "Claude Chabrol," in Screen (London), February 1970.

Milne, Tom, "Chabrol's Schizophrenic Spider," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1970.

Haskell, Molly, "The Films of Chabrol—A Priest among Clowns," in Village Voice (New York), 12 November 1970.

Milne, Tom, "Songs of Innocence," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1970/71.

Bucher, F., and Peter Cowie, "Welles and Chabrol," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1971.

"Chabrol Issue" of Filmcritica (Rome), April/May 1972.

Cornand, A., " Les Noces rouges , Chabrol et la censure," in Image et Son (Paris), April 1973.

Appel, A. Jr., "The Eyehole of Knowledge," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1973.

"Chabrol Issue" of Image et Son (Paris), December 1973.

Dawson, Jan, "The Continental Divide," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1973/74.

Le Fanu, Mark, "The Cinema of Irony: Chabrol, Truffaut in the 1970s," in Monogram (London), no. 5, 1974.

Walker, M., "Claude Chabrol into the '70s," in Movie (London), Spring 1975.

Fassbinder, Rainer Werner, "Insects in a Glass Case: Random Thoughts on Claude Chabrol," in Sight and Sound (London), no.4, 1976.

Harcourt, P., "Middle Chabrol," in Film Comment (New York), November/December 1976.

Poague, Leland, "The Great God Orson: Chabrol's '10 Days' Wonder," in Film Criticism (Edinboro, Pennsylvania), no. 3, 1979.

Jenkins, Steve, "And the Chabrol We Haven't Seen. . . ," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), July 1982.

Dossier on Chabrol, in Cinématographe (Paris), September 1982.

Bergan, Ronald, "Directors of the Decade—Claude Chabrol," in Films and Filming (London), December 1983.

"Chabrol Section" of Revue du Cinéma (Paris), May 1985.

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1987.

Auld, Deborah, "I, Claude," in Village Voice , 8 August 1989.

Haberman, C., "Chabrol Films a Henry Miller Tale," in New York Times , 9 August 1989.

Pally, Marcia, "Women's Business," in Film Comment , September/October 1989.

Bohlen, C., "Chabrol Offers a Cool-eyed Look at a Stormy Issue," in New York Times , 15 October 1989.

Fisher, William, "Occupational Hazards," in Harper's Bazaar , November 1989.

Borde, R., "Claude Chabrol," in La Revue de la Cinematheque , December/January 1989/90.

Gristwood, Sarah, "Mabuse Returns: Chabrol Pays His Respects," in Sight and Sound , Spring 1990.

Mayne, Richard, "Still Waving, Not Drowning," in Sight and Sound , Summer 1990.

Riding, A., "Flaubert Does Hollywood—Again," in New York Times , 13 January 1991.

Chase, Donald, "A Day in the Country," in Film Comment , November/December 1991.

Vaucher, Andrea R., "Madame Bovary, C'est Moi!" in American Film , September/October 1991.

Roth, Michael, "L'oeil de Vichy," in American Historical Review , October 1994.

Frodon, Jean-Michel, "Chabrol's Class Act," in London Guardian Weekly , 17 September 1995.

Diana, M., "Una commedia borghese," in Segnocinema (Vicenza), July-August 1996.

Feinstein, H., "Killer Instincts," in Village Voice , 24 December 1996.

Kibar, O., "En seremoniell obduksjon," in Film and Kino (Oslo), no. 3, 1996.

Signorelli, A., "A Firenze la 'sorpresa' Chabrol," in Cineforum (Bergamo), January/February 1996.


On CHABROL: film—

Yentob, Alan, Getting Away with Murder, or The Childhood of Claude Chabrol , for BBC-TV, London, 1978.


* * *


If Jean-Luc Godard appeals to critics because of his extreme interest in politics and film theory, if François Truffaut appeals to the popular audience because of his humanism and sentimentality, it is Claude Chabrol—film critic, filmmaker, philosopher—whose work consistently offers the opportunity for the most balanced appeal. His partisans find especially notable the subtle tone of Chabrol's cinema: his films are apparently cold and objective portraits of profoundly psychological situations; and yet that coldness never approaches the kind of fashionable cynicism, say, of a Stanley Kubrick, but suggests, rather, something closer to the viewpoint of a god who, with compassion but without sentiment, observes the follies of his creations.

Chabrol's work can perhaps best be seen as a cross between the unassuming and popular genre film and the pretentious and elitist art film: Chabrol's films tend to be thrillers with an incredibly self-conscious, self-assured style—that is, pretentious melodrama, aware of its importance. For some, however, the hybrid character of Chabrol's work is itself a problem: indeed, just as elitist critics sometimes find Chabrol's subject matter beneath them, so too do popular audiences sometimes find Chabrol's style and incredibly slow pace alienating.

Chabrol's films are filled with allusions and references to myth (as in La rupture , which begins with an epigraph from Racine's Phaedra : "What an utter darkness suddenly surrounds me!"). The narratives of his films are developed through a sensuousness of decor, a gradual accumulation of psychological insight, an absolute mastery of camera movement, and the inclusion of objects and images—beautiful and evocative, like the river in Le boucher or the lighthouse in Dirty Hands —which are imbued with symbolic intensity. Like Balzac, whom he admires, Chabrol attempts, within a popular form, to present a portrait of his society in microcosm.

Chabrol began his career as a critic for Cahiers du Cinéma. With Eric Rohmer, he wrote a groundbreaking book-length study of Alfred Hitchcock, and with his friends (Truffaut, Godard, Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and others) he attempted to turn topsy-turvy the entire cinematic value system. That their theories of authorship remain today a basic (albeit modified and continuously examined) premise certainly indicates the success of their endeavor. Before long, Chabrol found himself functioning as financial consultant and producer for a variety of films inaugurating the directorial careers of his fellow critics who, like himself, were no longer content merely to theorize.

Chabrol's career can perhaps be divided into five semi-discrete periods: 1) the early personal films, beginning with Le beau Serge in 1958 and continuing through Landru in 1962; 2) the commercial assignments, beginning with The Tiger Likes Fresh Blood in 1964 and continuing through The Road to Corinth in 1967; 3) the mature cycle of masterpieces, beginning with Les biches in 1968 and continuing through Wedding in Blood in 1973, almost all starring his wife Stéphane Audran, and produced by André Génovès; 4) the more diverse (and uneven) accumulations of films from 1974 to the mid-1980s which have tended neither to garner automatic international release nor to feature Audran in a central role; and 5) the more recent films of higher quality, if sometimes uneven still, produced in the 1980s and 1990s by Marin Karmitz's company MK2 and including a new set of regular collaborators.

If Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt , as analyzed by Chabrol and Rohmer, is constructed upon an exchange of guilt, Chabrol's first film, Le beau Serge , modeled after it, is constructed upon an exchange of redemption. Chabrol followed Le beau Serge , in which a city-dweller visits a country friend, with Les cousins , in which a country-dweller visits a city friend. Most notably, Les cousins offers Chabrol's first "Charles" and "Paul," the names Chabrol would continue to use throughout much of his career—Charles to represent the more serious bourgeois man, Paul the more hedonistic id-figure. A double tour , Chabrol's first color film, is especially notable for its striking cinematography, its complex narrative structure, and the exuberance of its flamboyant style; it represents Chabrol's first studied attempt to examine and criticize the moral values of the bourgeoisie as well as to dissect the sociopsychological causes of the violence which inevitably erupts as the social and family structures prove inadequate. Perhaps the most wholly successful film of this period is the infrequently screened L'œil du malin , which presents the most typical Chabrol situation: a triangle consisting of a bourgeois married couple—Hélène and her stolid husband—and the outsider whose involvement with the couple ultimately leads to violence and tragedy. Here can be found Chabrol's first "Hélène," the recurring beautiful and slightly aloof woman, generally played by Stéphane Audran.

When these and other personal films failed to ignite the box office, despite often positive critical responses, Chabrol embarked on a series of primarily commercial assignments (such as Marie-Chantal contre le Docteur Kha ), during which his career went into a considerable critical eclipse. Today, however, even these fairly inconsequential films seem to reflect a fetching style and some typically quirky Chabrolian concerns.

Chabrol's breakthrough occurred in 1968 with the release of Les biches , an elegant thriller in which an outsider, Paul, disrupts the lesbian relationship between two women. All of Chabrol's films in this period are slow psychological thrillers which tend basically to represent variations upon the same theme: an outsider affecting a central relationship until violence results. In La femme infidèle , one of Chabrol's most self-assured films, the marriage of Hélène and Charles is disrupted when Charles kills Hélène's lover. In the Jansenist Que la bête meure , Charles tracks down the unremittingly evil hitand-run killer of his young son, and while doing so disrupts the relationship between the killer, Paul, and his sister-in-law Hélène. In Le boucher , the butcher Popaul, who is perhaps a homicidal killer, attempts a relationship with a cool and frigid schoolteacher, Hélène, who has displaced her sexual energies onto her teaching of her young pupils, particularly onto one who is conspicuously given the name Charles.

In the extravagantly expressive La rupture , the outsider Paul attempts a plot against Hélène in order to secure a better divorce settlement, desired by the rich parents of her husband Charles, who has turned to drug addiction to escape his repressive bourgeois existence. In Juste avant la nuit , it is Charles who has taken a lover, and Charles's wife Hélène who must ultimately resort to an act of calculated violence in order to keep the bourgeois surface intact. In the detective variation Ten Days' Wonder , the relationship between Charles and Hélène is disrupted by the intervention of a character named Théo ( Theos , representing God), whose false image must be unmasked by the outsider Paul. And in Wedding in Blood , based on factual material, it is the wife and her lover who team together to plot against her husband.

Jean Renoir said that all great directors make the same film over and over; perhaps no one has taken this dictum as seriously as Chabrol; indeed, all these films represent a kind of formal geometry as Charles, Hélène, and Paul play out their fated roles in a universe strongly influenced by Fritz Lang, the structures of their bourgeois existence unable to contain their previously repressed passions. Noteworthy too is the consistency of collaboration on these films: usually with Stéphane Audran, Michel Bouquet, and Jean Yanne as performers; Jean Rabier as cinematographer; Paul Gégauff as co-scriptwriter; André Génovès as producer; Guy Littaye as art director; Pierre Jansen as composer; Jacques Gaillard as editor; Guy Chichignoud on sound.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, Chabrol has increasingly explored different kinds of financing, making television films as well as international co-productions. Some of these interesting films seem quite unusual from what he has attempted before, perhaps the most surprising being Le cheval d'orgueil , an ethnographic drama chronicling the simplicity and terrible harshness of peasant life in Brittany prior to World War I with a straightforwardness and lack of sentimentality which is often riveting. Indeed, the film seems so different from much of Chabrol's work that it forces a kind of re-evaluation of his career, making him seem less an emulator of Hitchcock and more an emulator of Balzac, attempting to create his own Comédie humaine in a panoramic account of the society about him.

Meanwhile, without his regular collaborators, most notably Stéphane Audran, Chabrol has had to establish a new "team"—now including his son, Matthieu Chabrol, as composer replacing the superior Pierre Jansen. Although the series of films directed for producer Marin Karmitz seems laudable and superior to Chabrol's non-Karmitz films of the 1980s and 1990s, with three exceptions they do not match the unity or quality of Chabrol's earlier masterpieces.

One of the exceptions is Une affaire des femmes , starring Isabelle Huppert (who had previously starred in Violette Nozière ). The story of an abortionist who ends up the last female guillotined in France (by the Vichy government), Une affaire des femmes , unlike the majority of Chabrol's recent films, received international distribution as well as a variety of awards and critical recognition. Chabrol's achievement here is extraordinary: offering a complex three-dimensional portrait of a woman who is not really very likeable, Une affaire des femmes turns out, by its end, to be the most fair, progressive, passionate film ever made about abortion, dissecting the sexual politics of the "crime" without ever resorting to polemics; and Chabrol's unswerving gaze becomes the regard of an all-knowing God . Madame Bovary , again with Huppert, is perhaps one notch below in quality: but is it surprising that Chabrol turns Madame Bovary into one of his tragic bourgeois love triangles, only this time with the protagonist named Emma, rather than Hélène? Also impressive—and perhaps Chabrol's last masterpiece—is the 1995 film La cérémonie , again with Huppert. Released several years after the fall of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, La cérémonie (which was based on the thriller A Judgement in Stone written by Ruth Rendell) was characterized by its director as "the last Marxist film" and presents a polite, likable, stylish, bourgeois French family who is ultimately dispatched by the help. That those who are supposed to provide service should instead gradually institute chaos and revolution within a well-appointed home redolent of privilege and maners, creates an atmosphere of slowly sustaining tension and violent inevitability; that " la cérémonie " is also the French term for the ritual of the guillotine makes Chabrol's sly ideological point all the clearer. Notably, La cérémonie was moderately successful in the United States (unusual for Chabrol), winning significant box office as well as the best foreign film citation from the National Society of Film Critics. The success of Une affaire des femmes , Madame Bovary , and La cérémonie , as well as the earlier Violette Nozière (all four starring Isabelle Huppert), may indicate that Chabrol's films—cold as an inherent result of the director's personality and formal interests—may absolutely require an extraordinary, expressive female presence in order to contribute a human, empathic dimension—else they seem slow, tedious exercises. Clearly, Stéphane Audran's contributions to Chabrol's earlier masterpieces—both as fellow artist and muse—may have been seriously underestimated.

More typical of Chabrol's recent career are films like Les Fantômes du Chapelier , Poulet au vinaigre , Inspecteur Lavardin , Masques , Le cri du hibou , and Rien ne va plus , which, though worthy of note, by no means measure up to Chabrol's greatest and therefore disappoint. What becomes indisputably clear is that Chabrol is one of the most uneven great directors; and without a producer like André Génovès and forceful, talented collaborators on Chabrol's wavelength, Chabrol can sometimes make bad or very odd movies. The 1976 Folies bourgeoises , for instance, is all but unwatchable, and while Docteur M and Betty may have interesting concepts, one is a dreary reinterpretation of Fritz Lang, and the other a lifeless adaptation of a Simenon novel, containing a wooden performance by Marie Trintignant. L'enfer (directed in 1994) is certainly better, if still minor—a smoldering tale of growing jealousy based on the unproduced script of a master director with a somewhat kindred soul, Henri-Georges Clouzot. Nevertheless, the true cinephile loves Chabrol despite his failures—because in the midst of his overprodigious output, he can change gears and make a fascinating documentary, such as his 1993 L'œil de Vichy (which compiles French film propaganda in service of the Nazi cause), or can surprise everyone with a major, narrative film of startling ideas and unity, such as his 1995 La cérémonie , suddenly again at the very top of his form, a New Wave exemplar for filmmakers everywhere. One hopes for at least one more definitive Claude Chabrol masterpiece.

—Charles Derry



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