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Roland Wolf wants to write a book about a TV game-show host, the hail-fellow-well-met Christian Legagneur, who invites Wolf to his country estate, promising several days of lengthy interviews. But Legagneur's laughter and easy intimacy are empty of content for a book, and he's constantly dashing off, promising Wolf more time later. Wolf seems to have his own mask: he's brought a gun with him, and he's curious about a woman who was a recent guest at the estate. There's also Legagneur's godchild, Catherine, recovering from mental illness, and hovered over by Legagneur and his secretary. As Wolf digs through desks, he discovers a murderous plot. Can he now outfox his host? Written by
The eighties were not that much a great time for Claude Chabrol.Most of the works of this era ,either have not worn very well (les fantômes du chapelier,poulet au vinaigre) or were not themes for him anyway (le cheval d'orgueil,Patricia Highsmith's "le cri du hibou")
"Masques " is probably his best since "Violette Nozières" (1978) and nearly matches the brilliance of the late sixties/early seventies heyday.
Completely unpretentious,it's full of humor,suspense and of course gastronomy (is there a Chabrol movie where they do not eat?).A marvelous spoof on these numerous TV shows which take dumbness to new limits, a detective story,this movie is much fun to watch.
Philippe Noiret,overplaying as hell -and he's thoroughly enjoyable-,plays the emcee of a broadcast for old people who sing songs of long ago,("les roses blanches" ,the most maudlin song of the whole French repertoire,crooned by an old man, can be heard on the cast and credits).By no means a caricature, because, we've seen worse on French TV.
And to crown it all,the host uses "HItchcock presents " music to enhance his horrible show.And that's not all!Philippe Noiret's character is Mister LEGAGNEUR (GO-GETTER)
The emcee is so full of himself he asks a young novelist (Renucci) to write his biography.They are to work in the country in Legagneur's desirable property,complete with court and chef .A delightful gallery of weirdoes hangs around:A couple,Roger Dumas ,a wine connaisseur, and Bernadette Laffont,who enjoys reading someone's cards and less commendable things -to think that Laffont was featured in Chabrol's very first ,"le beau Serge" ,in 1958!-;a deaf and dumb chauffeur;two strange servants, one of them relishes with Charlotte Armstrong's detective stories-like Chabrol ,who adapted this writer twice :"la rupture" (1970)and "merci pour le chocolat" (2000)-;and,last but not least,a strange girl (Brochet), Legagneur's goddaughter(sic).She seems very sick,or maybe someone helps her to be sick?
Actually nothing is what it seems .Everybody hides himself behind his mask,including the director ,who puts on his Chabrol mask this time.
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