Jean Rabier - Writer

Cinematographer. Nationality: French. Born: Paris, 21 April 1927. Career: Industrial artist, then camera operator and cinematographer in the 1950s, especially on short films; 1959—first of many films for Claude Chabrol, Les Cousins .

Films as Cinematographer:



L'Eveil d'un monde (Dupont); Okomé (Dupont); Voilà vous (Dupont); Palmes (Dupont); Trains sans fumée (Cantagrel)


La Grande Case (Dupont)


Les Araignées rouges (Tadié and Lacoste); Les Pucérons (Tadié and Lacoste); Le Carpocapse des pommes (Tadié and Lacoste); La Tavelure du pommier et du poirier (Tadié and Lacoste); Le Débroussaillage chimique (Tadié and Lacoste); La Tordeuse orientale (Tadié and Lacoste); La Banque (Vilardebo); Les Vers de la grappe (Tadié and Lacoste); La Vie du moyen age (Vilardebo); Le Cercle enchanté (de Gastyne); L'Homme, notre ami (de Gastyne)


Israel . . . terre retrouvée (de Gastyne); Propre à rien (de Gastyne)


Robinson (de Gastyne)


Le Château du passé (de Gastyne)


Mille villages (Vilardebo); Soleils (Vilardebo)


Orchestre et diamants (Rancy)


La Dormeuse (Pons)


Autresville d'art (de Gastyne)



Crève-Coeur (Dupont)


Le Beau Serge ( Bitter Reunion ) (Chabrol) (cam)


Les Cousins ( The Cousins ) (Chabrol); A double tour ( Web of Passion ; Leda ) (Chabrol)


Cléo de 5 à 7 ( Cléo from 5 to 7 ) (Varda); "L'Avarice" ep. of Les Sept Péchés capitaux ( The Seven Deadly Sins ) (Chabrol); Les Godelureaux (Chabrol)


Ophélia (Chabrol); "Illibatezza" ep. of Rogopag (Rossellini)


Landru ( Bluebeard ) (Chabrol); La Baie des anges ( Bay of the Angels ) (Demy); Peau de banane ( Banana Peel ) (Marcel OphĂĽls)


Les Parapluies de Cherbourg ( The Umbrellas of Cherbourg ) (Demy); "L'Homme qui vendit la Tour Eiffel" ep. of Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du monde ( The Beautiful Swindlers ) (Chabrol); Le Tigre aime la chair fraiche ( The Tiger Likes Fresh Blood ) (Chabrol)


Le Bonheur (Varda); Les Iles enchantées (Vilardebo); Marie-Chantal contre le Docteur Kha (Chabrol); "La Muette" ep. of Paris vu par . . . ( Six in Paris ) (Chabrol); Le Tigre se parfume à la dynamite ( An Orchid for the Tiger ) (Chabrol)


La Ligne de démarcation (Chabrol)


Le Scandale ( The Champagne Murders ) (Chabrol); Un Idiot Ă  Paris (Korber); La Petite Vertu (Korber); La Route de Corinthe ( Who's Got the Black Box? ) (Chabrol)


Les Biches ( The Does ) (Chabrol)


La Femme infidèle ( Unfaithful Wife ) (Chabrol); L'Homme orchestre (Korber); Que la bête meure ( This Man Must Die! ) (Chabrol); Le Boucher ( The Butcher ) (Chabrol)


La Rupture ( The Breakup ) (Chabrol)


Juste avant la nuit ( Just Before Nightfall ) (Chabrol); La DĂ©cade prodigieuse ( Ten Days' Wonder ) (Chabrol)


Docteur Popaul (Chabrol)


Les Noces rouges ( Wedding in Blood ) (Chabrol)


Nada ( The Nada Gang ) (Chabrol)


Les Innocents aux mains sales ( Dirty Hands ) (Chabrol); Une Partie de plaisir ( Pleasure Party ) (Chabrol); Les Magiciens (Chabrol)


Folies bourgeoises ( The Twist ) (Chabrol)


Alice, ou la dernière fugue ( Alice, or the Last Escapade ) (Chabrol); Swingmen in Europe (Mazéas)


Les Liens de sang ( Blood Relatives ) (Chabrol); Violette Nozière ( Violette ) (Chabrol)


Le Cheval d'orgueil (Chabrol)


Les FantĂ´mes du Chapelier (Chabrol)


Inspector Lavardin (Chabrol)


Le Cri du hibou (Chabrol); Masques (Chabrol)


A notre regrettable epoux (Pertitdidier); Une Affaire de femmes (Chabrol); En toute innocence (Jessua)


Dr. M ( Club Extinction ) (Chabrol); Jours tranquilles Ă  Clichy ( Quiet Days at Clichy ) (Chabrol)


Madame Bovary (Chabrol)


By RABIER: articles—

Cinéma (Paris), December 1964.

Image et Son (Paris), November 1970.

Cinéma (Paris), January 1973.

Film Reader , January 1977.

On RABIER: articles—

Monthly Film Bulletin (London), 1965.

Focus on Film (London), no. 12, Winter 1972, additions in nos. 13 and 15, 1973.

Film Français (Paris), 29 April 1977.

* * *

Jean Rabier, the distinguished cinematographer of the French New Wave, has been most consistently and significantly associated with the films of Claude Chabrol. Although Rabier has worked in black-and-white, providing nicely atmospheric images in films such as Le Beau Serge and Ophélia , his most integrated work is undoubtedly in Chabrol's color films. Rabier's cinematography is distinguished at once by its incredible beauty and expressiveness, as well as by its lack of the kind of boring picture-postcard prettiness which is all too often associated with color cinematography. His first color film for Chabrol, A double tour , is almost deliriously colorful in its imagery.

In Rabier's best work for Chabrol, the cinematography is totally at the service of the director's theme: thus, in La Femme infidèle , in which Chabrol depicts the violence and passion hidden within the apparently civilized bourgeoisie, Rabier emphasizes the beautiful patina of that bourgeoisie: the sheen of crystal, the impressionistic soft-focus prettiness of flower arrangements and manicured yard, and particularly the extraordinarily photographed face of Stéphane Audran, who is turned into an exquisite bourgeois goddess.

In Le Boucher , Rabier's cinematography of the small-town landscape resembles nothing so much as a CĂ©zanne painting; some of the film's final images, in which Rabier purposely drains his palette to photograph Audran's eyes as pools of light surrounded by darkness, reveal the influence of American film noir and never fail to move. As in A double tour and Ten Days' Wonder , an explosion of color is present also in the climax of La Rupture , in which Audran's gradual movement to blue and transcendence is captured visually by Rabier with the use of an increasingly longer lens, and, ultimately, a liberating rupture of laboratory-processed color which is one of the most memorable displays of virtuosity in all New Wave cinema. And yet this mastery of color expressiveness is achieved alongside a sense of improvisation and of natural light.

Finally, one must note as well the mobility of Rabier's camera, which—undoubtedly as a result of his collaboration with Chabrol and the requirements of the mise-en-scène—uses a wide variety of angles and perspectives and often constructs whole scenes around incredibly fluid and expressive camera movements. One immediately thinks of the final tracking shot of La Femme infidèle , or the moving camera expressing the father's grief in Que la bête meure , or the very impressive tracking shot of several minutes' duration in the beginning of Le Boucher which effortlessly reveals the layout of the town. Perhaps the signature image of Rabier and Chabrol is the expressive lateral camera movement into or away from dark trees, which, generally surrounded by beautiful color images, works to convey visually the epigraph of La Rupture and the theme implicit in all Chabrol's work: "What an utter darkness suddenly surrounds me!"—the darkness of the soul blotting out the color and beauty of the world.

—Charles Derry

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