“Blue… blue is very important.”
I’ve mostly been giving Chabrol a pass in favor of other French filmmakers who seem more interesting, but I checked this out as part of Shadowplay’s Film Club. It has already received the proper attention there, so I’ll just skip through…
Wild intro and last 15 minutes, not much heated activity in between. Hélène Régnier (Stéphane Audran, star of Babette’s Feast, lead girl’s mom in Thieves After Dark, also Coup de torchon, Discreet Charm, Dead Pigeon and numerous other Chabrol pictures) is our lead, and she’s pretty great. Her drug-addict husband Charles (Jean-Claude Drouot, playing the opposite of his overjoyed husband in La Bonheur) frankensteins out of his room one morning, attacks her, then clubs his son’s head into the corner of a dresser. She spends the rest of the movie dealing with the repercussions and gathering her wits. The kid is practically forgotten – total plot device.
Everyone turns out to be pretty well decent except for the husband’s rich dad (Michel Bouquet of The Bride Wore Black) who wants to use this incident to kick lowly Helene out of the family, and Paul, the two-faced creep he hires (Jean-Pierre Cassel, above, fresh from Army of Shadows and previously star of Renoir’s Elusive Corporal).
Helene stays at a boarding house near the hospital populated by nice, handsome Dr. Blanchard (Angelo Infanti, who experienced death-by-montage in The Godfather), a crazily-bearded hammy actor, three card-playing old women (“the Fates,” screams the DVD commentary), landlady Mrs. Pinelli, her drunk husband and their movie-fakey impaired daughter.
Intrigue: Paul, in collaboration with his always-nude sex-fiend girlfriend Sonia (Catherine Rouvel: Black and White in Color, Va Savoir), gets the loony idea to kidnap the landlady’s daughter, show her satanic sex films and pin it on Helene. But she’s not as dumb as Paul thought, and knows the difference between our Helene and Sonia in a wig. Paul then drugs Helene to keep his plan from crumbling – meanwhile Drouot is on the rampage, having killed his poor, sympathetic mother, runs into Paul who panics and stabs D. to death while a tripping Helene and the three card-playing women space out in the park watching balloons.
Funny to me: Marguerite Cassan plays the mother of Jean-Claude Drouot. She was in Renoir’s Picnic on the Grass which inspired Le Bonheur, which starred Drouot.
Movie is more musically interesting than visually. The commentary agrees: “It’s music that announces itself as music – it’s not to be forgotten, it’s to be paid attention to… an element of the filmmaking.”
English title was The Break-Up.
More hits from the commentary:
“Things in Chabrol’s universe do not happen for a reason.”
“The tension… is between civilization… and the beast within.”
“I’d say if the film has a flaw, she is a saint.”
“This is almost a caricature of a retarded girl. This has no basis in naturalism whatsoever. The existence inside this house is an existence on a different plane in a different style. This is a horror movie, it’s just a very strange, muted…” Comment makes me think of Celine & Julie Go Boating, but the movie doesn’t. The other common comparison is Sunrise because of a train ride scene. I think people are stretching.