|Index||9 reviews in total|
Claude Chabrol started as part of the nouvelle vague,as contemporary of
Truffaut and -yuk!- Godard ,but his roots are in the old cinema,that of
Clouzot and Duvivier.That's why his best movies hold up very well
A first golden era included such works as "à double tour" "le beau Serge" and "les cousins".Then came a period of barren inspiration which ended with "les biches" (1967) with which Chabrol entered his most fruitful period the 1967-1973 era:at least five of the works of this time are first-rate works :"la femme infidel" (1968;dubious American remake);"the beast must die" (1969) ;"the butcher" (1969) his towering achievement;"la rupture"(1970) his most underrated ;"juste avant la nuit" (1971) and finally "les noces rouges" which seems today as the last hurrah,a farewell to a golden era.
Unlike the four other films I mention "les noces rouges" is based on a true story which was widely talked about in France of the early seventies.But ,true or not,Chabrol's touch is strong and he makes the story a chabrolesque plot to the core.The bourgeois whom Chabrol depicted in "la femme infidel" or "la rupture" ,and who was played by Michel Bouquet has turned into a caricature.Enter Claude Piéplu,and with his high-pitched voice,he almost overshadows the excellent Stephane Audran and Michel Piccoli.An impotent self-satisfied mean bourgeois with political ambitions ,he accepts his wife's(Audran) affair with his deputy mayor(Piccoli) ,more,it's fine with him because it will be useful for his shady business.The scene when he tells the lovers so is incredible;lines such as "I want everybody to be happy around me!" he delivers to a stunned Piccoli and a bewildered Audran give goose pimples.
You will notice the omnipresence of water:in "que la Bete meure" and "le boucher" ,it symbolized a return from hell,not necessarily a happy end but a world with some peace of mind.In "les noces rouges" it appears during the love scenes (played by the two actors with more gusto than usual :never in a Chabrol movie the carnal act had been -and will be-so much to the fore)as a symbol of innocence (after all, the two people have no sex with their legal partners)in the sin.But it's the heroine's daughter ,called Helene ,who epitomizes innocence and some kind of deus ex machina.
What's more puzzling is that Stephane Audran's characters were all called Hélène in the four other movies I mention:in "la femme infidel' Helene had a lover but with some excuse :her husband appeared like a washout sexually;in "le boucher" she was a brave schoolteacher ,purity flesh on the bone;in "la rupture" her character had to fight against a hostile bourgeois world .In "les noces rouges" Audran ,called Lucienne,is on the other side of the mirror:she really becomes a criminal,almost in a dream .When her daughter,Hélène,who took the place she occupied in former movies asks her "I want you to be happy,mom,please tell me the truth" Audran does not seem to realize all that means.And when she does,it will be too late.
Les noces rouges" is also a movie which depicts political life circa 1970 in a small town where gossips run rampant.And as usual,Chabrol is marvelous when it comes to painting vignettes of ordinary life -see the scene in the library-
It would take Chabrol five years to muster this sort of command ("Violette Nozieres" (1978)),and although he has occasionally made great works ("l'enfer" " la cérémonie" ),he will be remembered in fifty years or so for those gems of the late sixties/early seventies era."Les noces rouges" is a must.
I was very surprised upon reading some of the comments for this film
after having seen it - not only is this not a lesser Chabrol movie or a
non-entertaining one, for my money its Chabrol at his subtle and
intriguing best, and no doubt up there with the likes of The Unfaithful
Wife and Le Boucher! The plot is not particularly original, but it's
not too important as it's Chabrol's style and attention to detail that
really makes the film what it is anyway. The plot seems to take a lot
of influence from the classic 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' and
focuses on murder due to an illicit love affair. Lucienne Delamare is
not so happily married to town major Paul Delamare and, unbeknown to
her husband, is currently engaged in an affair with her husband's
assistant Pierre Maury. The two are able to spend time together because
Paul is often away on business. Pierre's wife Clotilde is weak and sick
and when she dies suddenly, the town suspect suicide; but the truth is
more sinister, as revealed by Pierre's confession to Lucienne...
The film is kept interesting as Chabrol always focuses on the important elements and ensures that the chemistry between the leads is always engaging. The acting is once again superb with Chabrol's beautiful wife (at the time) Stéphane Audran being suitably brooding and mysterious in the lead role and receiving excellent support from Michel Piccoli and Claude Piéplu. The village in which the film takes place is also well thought out and Chabrol manages to create a foreboding atmosphere stemming from that. As usual with Chabrol films, this one is beautifully shot and realised and it's clear that the director put a lot of care and attention into the film. As usual, the suspense is generated through intrigue and the way that the characters are developed rather than through scenes of tension, though there are some brilliant sequences in the film - a pivotal scene towards the end involving a car accident being particularly noteworthy. I wouldn't recommend this film as a starting point for someone who has not previously seen a Claude Chabrol film, but I'd be surprised if fans of his don't enjoy it. Highly recommended!
By no means one of Chabrol's finest this is nevertheless most watchable and the most agreeable and sinister soundtrack always suggests this may become something much grander. As it is it is a fairly predictable tale with the odd twist but leaves the two leads/lovers ending up looking rather stupid. I'm sure Mr Chabrol, like his mentor, Hitchcock found himself a little less than at ease with the ladies. Hence his wife Stephane Audran and Michel Piccoli, two great actors, but who it has to be said, are both so seemingly lacking in passion, are asked to convince that they would gladly rush to a riverbank or rooms within a stately home to make wild, passionate love. I don't think so! Claude Pieplu is great fun as the at first pompous and later calculating cuckold husband and although we are assured he is not 'up to the job' he seems to have far more fire in him than the other two. Certainly worth watching this is a curious example of the director's work and just goes to show that, again like Hitchcock, even his lesser films are at least interesting, if a little awkward.
Taking an affair as its starting point Les Noces Rouges gives off first impression of being slightly conventional stuff, but as it creeps along, Claude Chabrol's masterful grasp of character and performance turn it into quite the gripping item, perhaps near classic in fact. The two main characters are Lucienne and Pierre, Lucienne wife of the mayor in a small French town and Pierre the vice major. While these two lovers seek to be with each other, to make love and be free Paul, the slightly crooked major is on the verge of an important land deal and Pierre's wife, the sickly and sympathetic Clotilde resides at home. One can somewhat sympathise with Lucienne and Pierre, Paul seems more interested in business than his wife and is away a lot, whilst Clotilde seems to be not much of a wife for an outgoing and amorous man, seeing as how she is ill and bedridden whenever she is seen. The scenes of lovemaking are vigorous and the small town portrayed with a keen sense of parochial life and beauty, though the focus of the film is tight Chabrol does not neglect the setting, it is an attractive place well captured by cinematographer Jean Rabier, especially the lovers lakeside meeting place. The sense of sympathy towards the characters is a great boon to the film as their behaviour worsens, one can understand their starting point and so their descent into dark deeds is all the more nastily compelling, but also sad. Stéphane Audran is typically fine as Lucienne, seeking passion and control but tinged with doubt and subdued feeling, while Michel Piccoli is equally good as the more obviously controlled Pierre. Claude Piéplu gives as good as both of the former though and his discovery of their treachery makes for one of the best scenes of the film. Add to all this a classic suspense sequence and the potent finale, great ironic work with the bare minimum of fuss and no unnecessary words and the film easily finds its way to greatness, in my book at any rate. Well recommended, a beautifully wrought and impactful work likely to please anyone who has the patience for its measured paced charm.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The films of Claude Chabrol are probably most famous for their artifice,
their heightened use of colour, stylised plots and action, elaborate,
distancing camerawork, intrusive decor and music, especially their turning
domestic melodrama into murder mysteries. But Chabrol first made his name
with LE BEAU SERGE, a scrupulously naturalistic rural drama, and mined this
vein throughout his career, co-existing in compelling tension with the
LES NOCES ROUGES is on one level Chabrol's most accessible film, with a straightforward plot and realistic filming. The thriller elements are for the most part sublimated, and instead we have a moving tale of adultery and political skullduggery in provincial France. Michel Piccoli is Pierre Maury, deputy vice-mayor, whose wife is permenantly incapacitated by asthma. In the extraordinary opening sequence, his unreciprocated loving gesture to his wife seems like a strangling; as she mopes off to bed, he, in real time, walks through the street, to his car, drives into the forest and there meets a beautiful red-head, Lucienne Delamare, wife of the mayor. They make love on the river bank.
It is here the film becomes formally interesting, and questions its very picturesque realism. Like a relay-race, we follow Lucienne now, driving in her car home. There is an edit in her journey though, and because the symmetry doesn't add up, we ask what's missing. When she arrives home it's night, making us wonder how far she lives from the forest, or what she's been doing in the meantime.
After dinner with her husband and daughter by another man, she goes to bed, and thinks/dreams about how she and Paul met, how he became a political partner of her husband, how they made love anywhere and everywhere like teenagers on heat - this is the slyly funny film's most comic section, as they sneak into the local chateau, or are nearly caught fornicating behind a bush.
The thing is, Lucienne's going into dream/thought mode is signalled by a conventional fading, and by the outside noises of a local celebration. Not only does she visualise things she cannot know - Paul's glum dinner with his wife, for example - but the sequence breaks off not with her, but Pierre, when the image fades 'back', and the outside noise intrudes. What's going on here? How do we reconcile these formal breaches within the film's surface realism?
Is it enough to suggest that the film's 'narrative' is actually the projection of Lucienne's desires? Why does Paul come out of Lucienne's dream? Chabrol was one of the first to take Hitchcock's artistry seriously - do the REAR WINDOW-like similarity of initials link Paul and Pierre closer than they seem?
This seeming fantasy serves at least two purposes. Firstly it shows that a bond that transcends social rules and probable social ostracism is not all that real - the scene in the chateau, beginning in excitable joy, role play and daring, ending in alienation and disillusion, hinted as much. Alternatively, this realm of fantasy, escape, transcendence, can be seen as a riposte to the very real world of corrupt politics and paralysing marriages. What seemed a rather old-hat investigation into bourgeois transgression becomes something far richer, a psychological dramatisation of a woman's desires.
But Chabrol is an ironist, and he would never go too far with any one character. We might regard, for example, the husband and daughter as marginal figures in the main love story if they weren't called Paul and Helene, and therefore linked to Chabrol's other 70s films of love triangles featuring these characters. We expect some kind of intrusion from these, and we do, powerfully so. Indeed, Helen's effacing observing becomes almost supernatural as it comes to wreak passive havoc, as do her constant paralleling with paintings. The Hitchcockian use of a church (and the VERTIGOesque music) also suggest a spiritual dimension seemingly minimal, but possibly devastating.
Whatever. This is a Chabrol masterpiece. His recreation of provincial France is beautiful, but always corresponds to emotional states. The acting is extraordinary. Piccoli is one of the great actors, and his burly-eyed charm, decency and humour suggest a man ready to murder, whose embraces are like frenzied maulings, whose civility is undermined by his slurping of soup.
Claude Pieplu as the husband is a wonderful comic character who initially suggests a repellent but laughable Charles Bovary (who was once called a monster because he snored on his wedding night), and becomes something much more dangerous. The representation of politics in the film got it banned, and it does reveal corruption in very high places, but Chabrol seems more interested in its dehumanising processes contrasted with the redemption of imaginative power. What is most disturbing about Paul is that we think it perfectly reasonable he be killed.
Stephane Audran, Chabrol's wife, is a revelation, though. Normally icily elegant, she is enrapturing here as a woman in love, unafraid to be vulgarly happy, the sense of freedom allowing her to - horrors - smile, laugh, even lounge on chairs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's easy to see that "Wedding In Blood" is the work of a cinematic master right from the opening sequence: the camera follows Michel Piccoli as he, after a brief talk with his wife, gets out of his apartment and drives to an idyllic country spot, where he meets Stéphane Audran for some passionate sex. Then, Piccoli becomes just a shadow while the camera follows Audran this time, as she drives back to her own house where her husband and daughter await her. It's a simple technique which, however, perfectly sets up the rest of the story. The problem with the story is that it doesn't really have much psychological depth: the two lovers behave increasingly recklessly, are driven to murder rather inexplicably (since their spouses, for all their faults, hardly pose much of an obstacle to their affair), and get caught (as some DVD covers stupidly spoil!) without offering much resistance. Even the husband's sudden discovery of the truth doesn't ring, well, true - at least the daughter is shown forming her suspicions from early on. Speaking of the daughter, it's a shame that Eliana De Santis, who plays her, seems to have retired from films since the mid-1970s - she is quite an engaging actress, and you can tell that about 5 years later, she would become a total knockout as well. Anyway, "Wedding In Blood" probably doesn't rank among Claude Chabrol's most important films, but it's still gorgeous to look at and interesting to watch, with fine performances all around: Audran and Piccoli's body language totally makes you believe that their characters are crazy for each other. **1/2 out of 4.
This film has a persistently artificial feel to it that at times serves it well and at times is a hindrance - it sometimes serves to highlight the hypocrisy and corruption of the milieu and give the central characters a decadent air, but at times it interferes with character development, as it interferes with our understanding of the characters. The plot itself is rather conventional but is essentially an excuse to dissect a certain milieu. The most interesting character is in my opinion very underrated: the mayor's stepdaughter, who is clearly intelligent, somewhat sombre but decidedly not bookish. She is the sole character that does not seem motivated by purely selfish, fairly conventional motives (money, political ambition, boredom, sexual desire, etc), making her motivations harder to fathom. She is the only character with any real mystery about her; it's hinted she has some kind of fascination with death, and she makes a surprising comment related to the role of women, all of which add to her ambiguity as a character.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Les Noces Rouges is about two married people who are having an affair
behind their partner's backs. In both cases they are in sexless
marriages. The man's wife is suffering from mental illness and is close
to catatonic, while the woman's husband is impotent and never there.
This leads them to the idea of murder
Like a few other Claude Chabrol films, this one is about murder without actually ever really being a thriller. It's the psychological consequences of killing and complex male/female relationships that are the focus. Once again, the highlight of the film is the performance of Stephane Audran. This incredibly sensual French actress is something of a revelation in my book. Both an outstanding beauty and a highly accomplished actress, Audran has a real screen presence and charisma in everything I have seen her in. In this one she is ably complemented too by Michel Piccoli in the role of her partner in crime. While Chabrol himself keeps the film looking nice with his usual pastel colour scheme very much in evidence.
Another feature of Chabrol's work that this one displays is a tendency for its characters to easily forgive and forget the sexual-betrayal of their partners. The reasons may differ depending on the film but it is an unusual regular feature of his work. It's never exactly believable and does give his films a sense of detachment, which is very much in keeping with how he portrays all of his characters; they are always at arms length and are never the warmest people. In Les Noces Rouges this does lead to a problem of sorts, as it's quite hard knowing who to sympathize with. I guess we are supposed to empathize with the central couple but considering they murder their respective partners for essentially selfish reasons, they're not the easiest people to get on-side with. But ultimately, these types of moral ambiguities and complications are one of the things what make Chabrol's films interesting and unpredictable.
Les Noches Rouges/Wedding in Blood is one of Claude Chabrol's worst films from his richest period, an utterly mundane crime passionel devoid of insight or interest despite being set in the small town bourgeois milieu that had served him so well in the past and would again in the future. Chabrol has always had a tendency towards caricature, and the laughable passionate embraces between Michel Piccoli and Stephane Audran (neither at their best) or the half-dimensional corrupt mayor are indicative of the clumsiness of the whole sorry enterprise, as is the lumbering flashback setting up the murders. Things briefly threaten to get interesting after the second murder, but by then the film is nearly over and the promise remains unfulfilled.
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