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Just Before Nightfall (1971)

Juste avant la nuit (original title)
Charles Masson, an advertising executive, is having an affair with Laura, the wife of his best friend, the architect François Tellier. Charles strangles Laura when one of their S&M games ... See full summary »

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
François Périer ...
...
Jeannot
Dominique Zardi ...
Prince
Henri Attal ...
Cavanna
Paul Temps ...
Bardin
...
Dorfmann
Clelia Matania ...
Celia ...
Jacqueline
Pascal Gillot ...
Auguste Masson
Brigitte Périn ...
Joséphine Masson
Marcel Gassouk ...
Barman
Anna Douking ...
Roger Lumont ...
Commissaire Delfeil
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Storyline

Charles Masson, an advertising executive, is having an affair with Laura, the wife of his best friend, the architect François Tellier. Charles strangles Laura when one of their S&M games goes too far. Dazed, Charles walks out of the borrowed apartment in Paris and soon bumps into François in a nearby bistro. They drive back together to Versailles, where they have beautiful neighboring houses designed by François. The owner of the apartment had seen Laura and Charles together two months earlier, but she does not tell the police on the advice of François. Even though the police do not seem to have any clues to the crime, Charles has a difficult time coping with the situation, and trying to live a normal life with his two children and loving wife Hélène. Written by Will Gilbert

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

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Release Date:

31 March 1971 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Just Before Nightfall  »

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Did You Know?

Connections

Version of Onna no naka ni iru tanin (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Silent Night
Original lyrics by Joseph Mohr and music by Franz Gruber, French lyrics by unknown lyricst
Played and sung in the Christmas morning scene
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User Reviews

 
cold, pneumonic, black
3 March 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I love a line in this movie from the executive Masson, he said he had his house designed by a modern architect to avoid the sclerosis of becoming bourgeois. Thats exactly what I think when I see modernist furniture and architecture. It's made for future people, dysfunction-free, productive, and clairvoyant. Only that's not quite how it works out. Here we have post-bourgeois people, who find themselves, like all the best swimmers, more likely to drown. They try to reinvent morality and instead trespass into treacherous areas which the ignorant forbid themselves through superstition, in the process jettisoning the wisdom of ages.

Yes this is a Chabrol film but don't believe it's a thriller, what we have here is more along the lines of Bergman. The police in this film are portrayed as merely being obnoxious, a nuisance to everyone involved in the murder. We are constantly waiting for the detective Cavanna to disappear from the screen.

We have a view here of people whom I'm sure Matthew Barney would call almost crystalline, devoid of potentiality. The film is so awful in this respect that it almost made me glad that we only tend to live eighty years. The tired-eyed men in this movie are weighed down with disillusion and regret, waiting for the end, their successes mere dust. Just before the night, indeed. Gone are their protean days, gone are the Alpheuses of youth. It's not so much a murder thriller as an essay into death. Masson, Tellier et al would welcome the cool breeze whispering through the cypresses on the island of the dead. One startling shot from a train shows Paris in twilight, looking grubby and ready for death itself.

I think more than anything this film is about mortality. Nowhere do we see hot blood in this film, only palsy and the damp skin of the pneumonic, the husband of the mudered woman even comforts the murderer. One part of the movie that I find astonishing is when Masson sees his employee of many many years, who has just been caught embezzling by the police and is now in custody. Masson looks at him with compassion, but the old man, who is now in a sense freer than he ever has been, looks him straight in the eye and tells him to screw himself. Masks off and a bonfire of the vanities.

This film is concentrated sulphuric acid, for more of the same see Les Bonnes Femmes and Les Cousins.


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