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In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy, named Dickie Greenleaf. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.
The upper-class owner of a gallery, Catherine Lelievre, hires the efficient and quiet maid Sophie to work in the family manor in the French countryside. Her husband Georges Lelievre, who is an opera lover, her daughter Melinda and her teenage son Gilles welcome Sophie and appreciate her work. Sophie soon befriends the postmistress Jeanne, who is a bad egg and encourages Sophie to rebel against her employers, but the maid stays submissive. However, Sophie is ashamed of a secret and feels uncomfortable in many situations, finding a way to hide her secret. When Georges tells Sophie that he does not want Jeanne in his house, Sophie stands up to him. Melinda discovers her secret and Sophie blackmails her, but Melinda tells her parents what happened. Georges fires Sophie and she returns to the house later with Jeanne on the rampage. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I don't know much about Claude Chabrol's cinema. I've seen seven or eight of his dozens of films, but I remember them quite well, especially "Violette Nozière", "Le boucher" and "La rupture." Many years after these, "La cérémonie" is a serene work, the construction of a mature man who avoids making artificial judgments or explaining motivations of his characters, and tending traps to his audiences to keep them interested in what he's narrating. In an economic way, with well-chosen details he gives us everything needed in a story that deals with psychological disturbances and profound social disparity. I do not see this movie as a thriller nor do I see the connection with Alfred Hitchcock. While Hitchcock could almost ruin his forays into psychological landscapes (like Simon Oakland explaining Norman Bates' behavior in "Psycho" or placing clues that led to nowhere) and very rarely treated social issues, Chabrol prevents from recurring to psychological clichés and gives us subtle gestures to illustrate the "class struggle": the way the rich daughter returns the handkerchief to the post-office clerk after cleaning her filthy hands; the way the post-office clerk throws back an envelope to the bourgeois father. A few times Chabrol is not so subtle and he shows tension even between persons of the same class: the way the poor maid and the post-office clerk despise the miserly charity of an old Catholic couple, the way the rich father protests when giving his son a ride to school... Using this strategy, all the portraits are compassionate: the members of the rich family seem as pleasant as the two poor women when they share the little they have. When the climax arrives -the daughter of the bourgeois family discovers (part of) the maid's secret and, in return, the maid reveals she also knows something about the young woman- there is little else Chabrol can add, but only guide us to the conclusion. Maybe there is a much too obvious cut from the two women with no food at home, to the dinner table where the rich family finished a tasty meal. That's all we need, in case we want an explanation to why the way the two women act in the last scenes. All the elements are there for us to find answers or make interpretations if we want to do so. Not too many filmmakers today treat audiences as intelligent human beings and invite them to participate in the creative process adding the absent information, with the benefit of more than a century of cinematic tradition and if we care- reflections on the way things are today in imbalanced societies. When "La cérémonie" was over, I was very pleased: not only did I watch a movie directed with brains, but I felt treated with respect by Claude Chabrol. Not frequent in much of today's cinema, a respectful film has great merit.
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