André Mercier, a journalist known as Albin Mercier, is a failed, embittered writer. Sent to cover an event in Germany, he gets to know Andreas Hartmann, another writer who, for his part, ...
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André Mercier, a journalist known as Albin Mercier, is a failed, embittered writer. Sent to cover an event in Germany, he gets to know Andreas Hartmann, another writer who, for his part, has not... failed. The successful Andreas is married to Hélène, a beautiful Frenchwoman. Both attracted to her and jealous of the couple's happiness, Mercier decides to shatter it. Taking advantage of the absence of Andreas, off on a business trip, he tries to seduce Hélène and to become her lover. But things do not go according to plan...Written by
French visa # 25363 delivered on 2-5-1962. See more »
THE THIRD LOVER (Claude Chabrol, 1962) ***
To begin with, this is one of the rarest Chabrols as well as a key early effort. For anyone who hastily pinned him down as the French Hitchcock, this shows yet another facet to his 'personality': if THE CHAMPAGNE MURDERS (1967) saw the director take a leaf out of Fellini's book, here he seems to be influenced by the work of Antonioni – complete with a faux-thriller plot (evoking in some aspects Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr. Ripley", actually first brought to the screen in 1960 by the French as PURPLE NOON) which, owing to the protagonist's enigmatic behavior, progresses gradually into semi-abstraction!
Having mentioned that later Chabrol, the movie under review likewise allows Stephane Audran an unprecedented central role which she carries off with aplomb. Incidentally, even at this preliminary stage, her future husband's thrillers were peppered with sudden shocking murders (as both WEB OF PASSION  and LES BONNES FEMMES  will attest) – and the climax of this one is, undeniably, superbly handled.
The hero – played by virtual unknown Jacques Charrier – supplies the right mix of blandness and arrogance the part requires. Similarly, Jean Rabier's gleaming monochrome photography notwithstanding, the picture counters its essentially rough-and-ready quality (in pure "New Wave" style) with a quite remarkable incisiveness (particularly in the noir-ish dialogue).
At a mere 77 minutes, THE THIRD LOVER (better served by the original title L'OEIL DU MALIN, which translates to THE EVIL EYE – a moniker later also attached to two, obviously unrelated, Italian giallos!) does not overstay its welcome. In hindsight, if back then the film's inherent pretentiousness may have alienated critics and audiences alike, it can now be seen as a shining example of Chabrol's burgeoning talent.
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