Alice or the Last Escapade (1977) Poster

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Alice Carroll in wonderland.
dbdumonteil4 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Few people know this Chabrol movie and I agree with the precedent users:it's a work that deserves to be restored to favor.Almost unique in the director's canon ,it deals with the fantasy and horror genre:only the final sequences of "la rupture" (1970) verge on it.Its less-than-critically-acclaimed reception led Chabrol to ditch that new direction ,which was perhaps too bad,considering the big amount of mediocre films he made afterward.

Probably influenced by American B movie "carnival of souls"(1962) and Louis Malle's "black moon" (1975),"Alice" walks a fine line that directly leads to works such as "Jacob's ladder" (1990) "a pure formality" (1994) and "the sixth sense " (1999).Sylvia "Emmanuelle -Krystel is not much of an actress,but it does not matter here because it's the atmosphere which counts:a green green landscape ,where Chabrol achieves the incredible feat of exuding anguish in the daylight,a gloomy mansion where,when you talk on the phone,your own voice echoes you;a strange library where the heroine finds a BOrges book-and it's no coincidence- Jorge Luis Borges's "ficciones"(one of his short stories is called "El jardin de Sanderos que se bifurcan":the garden with paths which fork),Borges whose spirit literally haunts the movie.The party where the guests celebrate "my sister's death" displays Luis Bunuel's influence ,notably " the phantom of liberty" (1974)

A very strange supporting cast "plays" with the heroine ,and their behavior predates David Fincher's "the game" by more than twenty years:Charles Vanel and Fernand Ledoux ,whose careers began during the silent era,Jean Carmet,Andre Dussolier ,playing two parts ,dressed in white then in black and showing one more time Hitchcock's stranglehold on Chabrol's cinema when he says "the world is a pigpen,isn't it?" as Uncle Charlie in "shadow of a doubt"(1942).

What will you find on the other side of the mirror? Sorry... of the wall?And when there's no wall anymore?"Alice ou la dernière fugue" should appeal to Chabrol's fans even if it's not really chabrolesque.
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ALICE OR THE LAST ESCAPADE (Claude Chabrol, 1977) ***1/2
Bunuel197617 June 2010
Though this was considered as something of an aberration in Chabrol's filmography and thus proved somewhat hard to find, for me it had always been the most intriguing entry from this ostensibly lean period (stretching from 1976 to 1984) in the director's career – being a unique foray for him into outright Surrealism and for which he obviously drew inspiration from "Alice In Wonderland" (even down to naming his heroine Alice Carol {sic}!).

Anyway, I was thoroughly absorbed in the dream-like 'events' – helped in no small measure by Jean Rabier's exquisite photography, a moody score by Pierre Jansen and, of course, the beguiling presence of stunning leading lady Sylvia Kristel (fitted throughout in a variety of simple but very elegant dresses). Given the latter's casting, star of the official "Emmanuelle" series of erotic movies, this clearly takes on an adult perspective – but, apart from one full-frontal nude scene and the barest hint of lesbianism towards the end, it is not otherwise explicit in this regard.

Incidentally, the original source has always been somehow refuted of its prepubescent associations; even so, it is telling that the film under review (featuring the likes of Charles Vanel, Jean Carmet, Chabrol's own young son Thomas, as well as Fernand Ledoux and Andre' Dussolier, both in dual roles for no very good reason except adding to the fun!) is, to me, a more rewarding viewing experience than the many versions of the Lewis Carroll classic I have come across. For the record, I am familiar with those made in 1933 (Paramount), 1951 (Walt Disney), 1966 (BBC-TV), 1972 (British) and 1988 (Jan Svankmajer) but still need to check out Tim Burton's latest adaptation, while also owning the pseudo-biopic DREAMCHILD (1985).

Chabrol may have been motivated towards making this following the release of the similarly oddball, even more fanciful but also rather muddled BLACK MOON (1975), made by his peer in the "Nouvelle Vague" movement Louis Malle. However, for all their illogical nature, the various episodes Alice finds herself a helpless and bewildered participant in – and which I have deliberately refrained from describing, since these have to be seen to be properly appreciated! – remain firmly grounded in reality (set as they are in a country-house, a gas station and a restaurant). The opening marital squabble and poignant closing shot, then, would seem to be evoking Jean-Luc Godard's CONTEMPT (1963), yet another of Chabrol's former colleagues! Indeed, an opening title reveals that ALICE is dedicated to the memory of the late Fritz Lang, one of Chabrol's idols and an actor (portraying himself no less!) in the latter film.

All of this creates a hauntingly oneiric feel which admirably approaches the contemporaneous work of my all-time favorite auteur, Luis Bunuel. The last act even introduces a DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)-like circular inevitability to the proceedings, while the final revelation of Alice's 'in limbo' predicament recalls, of all things, Jess Franco's A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (1971; albeit one of his better efforts). In retrospect, it is regrettable that Chabrol did not go down this path more often in his career – and, while the film can be cherished as a one-off, it is also liable to get lost in the shuffle of his prolific oeuvre.
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Excellent, unjustly unknown film
antoinebachmann4 May 2004
Saw this by chance late one evening.

Was attracted by the ambiance, which I found very Tarkovsky-esque, before I was attracted by Sylvia Kristel (she was not on screen during the first minutes I saw ;-)

Was surprised to see her act. Really loved the pace and the suspense. Found the conclusion wonderful, though-provoking, unexpected.

In my view this is clearly in the top 10 percent of Chabrol's production. I don't understand why this film is not well-known - maybe because it has an ex-erotic film actress in it?

A very good surprise.
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Film Fantasy Frolic
Eumenides_019 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Claude Chabrol's Alice or the last escapade is a rare foray into fantasy with many of the signature elements that made this French filmmaker a consummate storyteller and creator of suspense. One night, the unhappy Alice Carroll (Sylvia Kristel) leaves her boring husband. Then her car's windshield inexplicably breaks in the middle of a storm and she finds shelter in an estate. The old owner and his butler kindly put her up for the night, but when she wakes up the inhabitants have disappeared and her car has been repaired. However, she can't find the gate leading back to the main road. She's trapped inside the estate's walls.

Although written by Chabrol himself, the film is based on Lewis Carroll's classic novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Kristel reads Jorge Luis Borges' Fictions at one point. One could also establish connections with a famous Ambrose Bierce short-story and Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman. It's a far cry from his realistic thrillers but I think it's also his sense of realism that makes the subdued fantasy elements work so well in this movie. The strangeness of the movie comes mostly from plays on language – like the inhabitants who refuse to answer any questions – and old-fashioned camera tricks and sound effects. When Alice climbs up the wall, thinking she get on the other side, she discovers there's just more estate, or as a character tells us, "there's no other side." These are all neat tricks that fortunately don't require elaborate special effects, but allow the movie to explore concepts like infinity, paradoxes and the nature of time.

What makes the movie so remarkable, besides the strange concepts it explores and the bizarre situations it thrusts its heroine into, is that Chabrol never seems to be directing a fantasy movie. In fact Jean Rabier's luminous camera captures every surface and space with a decidedly non-threatening light. In an age when movies come out with preconceived palettes – you know a horror movie these days is going to have that sickly green hue – the colors in this movie seem out of place, radically so, and better suited in a drama. It's this sense of unfamiliarity that makes the movie more settling.

Sylvia Kristel was very good in this movie, although she was mostly a passive character being thrust from one absurd situation to another. I think Chabrol was more fascinated with the beauty of the sets than with her legendary body. Still, watching this movie, one wonders why her career derailed into a string of erotic movies. She had all the qualities to make it as a decent actress.

Alice or the last escapade is a frolic for movie lovers. There's nothing visionary about this movie: it seems in the 1960s and 1970s everyone was doing their own weird fantasy movie: Robert Altman (Images), Ingmar Bergman (The Hour of the Wolf), Elio Petri (A Quiet Place in the Countryside, Roman Polanski (What?), and this is just another addition to this whimsical body of cinema. But if you're a fan of artistic fantasy movies, you ought to watch it.
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Intriguing Unknown Masterpiece
claudio_carvalho20 November 2010
Alice Carol (Sylvia Kristel) leaves her husband (Bernard Rousselet) in a rainy night telling that she does not like him anymore. She travels alone but when her car breaks the windshield in a lonely road, she crosses the gate of a creepy manor and is welcomed by the owner Henri Vergennes (Charles Vanel) and his butler Colas (Jean Carmet) that invites Alice to spend the night in the house. On the next morning, Alice does not meet the two men and finds the windshield of her car surprisingly fixed. She tries to leave the real estate, but does not find the gate. She stops the car and walks around the wall trying to find an exit. Sooner she finds that she is trapped and can not leave the property.

"Alice ou la Dernière Fugue" is an intriguing unknown masterpiece written and directed by Claude Charbrol and supported basically by the wonderful performance of the gorgeous Sylvia Kristel. The story is developed in a nightmarish atmosphere and the name of the lead character "Alice Carol" seems to be a tribute to "Alice in the Wonderland" of Lewis Carroll. Further, Adrian Lyne's "Jacob's Ladder" is visibly inspired in the storyline of this film. The mystery is kept until the very last scene. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Alice"
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An almost real "cauchemare"
mbrooks-214 July 2000
I saw this movie on TV when I was 11 years old and it had a deep impression on me. Watching it again, I can identify many elements which are (and already were in the 1976) very conventional, or even outdated: the existentialist/ nouveau roman-plot, the Margritte-aesthetics, the "Psycho"-allusions...

The portrait of Alice (Kristel, sensuous as ever) and of her fate is sometimes of a certain merciless quality (misogynous tendencies?), but this movie is emulating the scenario of a real "cauchemare" far better than any other "Splatter" or "Horror"-Movie.
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bogdank14 August 2001
A brilliant movie. I liked it because all the time everything seemed so possible, but strange until the very end where you're shocked finding out what was really going on. It gets you to think about so many things related to life, dreams, and death.

In my view this is one of the best Chabrol's movies. Unfortunately, it did not get as much attention as the others.

Sylvia Kristel was good in her role. She has actually shown she could act.
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"What a shame this pendulum's stopped."
morrison-dylan-fan20 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Recently watching her debut again in Pim de la Parra touching Erotic Drama Frank en Eva,I decided to take a look at co-star Sylvia Kristel's other credits. Making some offerings from film maker Claude Chabrol be part of my plan to watch 100 French films over 100 days,I was delighted to spot a credit from Kristel where she worked with Chabrol!,which led to me excitingly walking into Wonderland.

The plot:

Arguing with her husband, Alice Caroll leaves the house and drives down a stormy road.During the storm,Caroll's windscreen mysterious breaks,which leads to her taking shelter in a country house.Entering the house,Caroll gets a strange feeling that the owners of the house have been waiting for her.Waking up the next day,Caroll finds the car fixed and a breakfast on the table,but no soon of any humans,and the exit from the house completely removed.Rushing round the gardens to find an exit from the place,Alice soon finds her self entering a wonderland.

View on the film:

Floating on air, Sylvia Kristel gives an earthy performance as Alice Caroll.Scanning the grounds with limited dialogue, Kristel gives the title a whispering, dreamy atmosphere by holding Caroll's head high in the clouds,and also giving Caroll a determined streak to dig up the rabbit hole.

Whilst skirting round a direct adaptation,the screenplay by writer/director Claude Chabrol does give some sweet surrealist nods to Lewis Carroll,from Alice's pill taking and meeting with a "childish" Mad Hatter,to the fantasy world being hit with a final jolt of reality.Taking a pause from his usual themes,Chabrol leaps around with an infectious energy in his surrealist Wonderland,which takes an episodic approach in Alice's off the wall encounters,which goes from all the birds singing to her,to Alice having to deal with a ban on questioning.Joining the tea party,Chabrol bounces the flight of fantasy with a sweet and sour psychological dip into an after life which opens the rabbit hole to the gates of hell,and reveals in a sharp final twist that Alice can never fully escape from the fantasy.

Surrounded by the grounds of the house, Chabrol & cinematographer Jean Rabier sink Alice into a lush surrealist landscape.Covering the screen completely in green,Chabrol steams up a mythical atmosphere by stylishly using the miles of bright green plants and trees to keep Alice in a disorientating state,and also completely closing off Alice's wonderland from the outside world. Joined by a majestic score from Pierre Jansen, Chabrol takes delicious detours that flip from a tea party to funeral transformation,to a high wall stopping Alice from leaving Chabrol's wondrous Wonderland.
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A psychologically disturbing film which compels us to think about life after death...
MovieHungry2 February 2012
Surprising movie! A twist in the end! I like such movies, when the viewer is fooled ...when what we thought we understood is overturned! Reminds me of something from 'The Sixth Sense'. Do you agree? I didn't like the the acting of Silvia Kristel in a few sequences, as she seemed to be making some effort to speak. In the first shots with her husband, she acted strangely as she didn't seem distressed at all when announcing the latter that she would leave him. There was no visible stress on her face and she appeared relaxed when communicating her departure. The husband also acted strangely when he told her to stay one more night and to leave tomorrow morning! No one would have realistically said that! didn't like a few shots as well...For instance, some night shots in the beginning were not properly lit. But, it remains a movie with a great script, with minimal dialog, with each shot compelling us to ask...'what will happen next?'. The characters were all weird - and later we can deduce why...
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BandSAboutMovies20 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A French surrealistic retelling of Alice in Wonderland with Sylvia Kristel in the lead? It's as if a message from space was sent directly to my brain, demanding that I stop whatever I was planning and sit inches from my TV and yelling out every translated word via closed captioning.

Alice Caroll is leaving her husband, who she has grown to hate, driving through the countryside until her windshield cracks and she ends up at an old house. It seems she's been expected and is asked to stay overnight. The next morning, the servants are all gone and her car is fixed, but she can't find the way out.

She tries to walk away from the house and still can't escape when a young man tells her to accept her fate. After staying a second night, she finally gets away in her car down the pathway before she crashes her car. As Jason Mantzoukas would say, "This is a Jacob's Ladder scenario."

Claude Chabrol - the "French Hitchcock" - dedicated this film to Fritz Lang and it's a visual essay of Kristel navigating scenery, of the futility of existence, of trying to navigate life's path without any answers. It's gorgeous yet icy and mysterious, much like the visage of Chabrol's muse her, Kristel.

I'd compare this to 1970's Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, as this is an absolute film, one that you experience on an emotional - and not rational - basis. It's my first exposure to Chabrol, but I know it will not be my last.
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