Les Abysses (1963, Nikos Papatakis)

“Do women have freedom?” Two young sisters trash a large house and grouse at each other until the masters return, and everyone yells at each other, and there’s a lot of slapping. The girls announce that they’ve wrecked things because they’re unpaid and mistreated, sabotaging a year’s vintage of wine which was to be included in a deal to sell the house. The servants stick around, and the family puts up with a lot – too much, and the sisters finally murder the wife and daughter and are sentenced to death in postscript.

Francine Bergé, the older of the sisters, played the villain in the great Judex the same year, later the villain in Rivette’s The Nun. Nico’s directorial debut premiered at Cannes 1963 (in competition with Harakiri, I Fidanzati, Baby Jane, big winner The Leopard). Watched as part of a Criterion spotlight – they say he was a controversial figure who worked with Casssavetes and Jean Genet. Took a break halfway through the movie when Katy came down, and we watched Farran’s introduction to Judy Holliday, and perhaps I should’ve watched a Judy instead of a Nico.

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