Handsomely depressing youth movie, 100 straight minutes of dudes talking shit with big camera moves. Paul is New Wave regular Brialy with a dumb stache, lives in the city, and his cousin Charles (Gérard Blain, pinch-faced title star of Le Beau Serge) stays at his place while in university. They throw parties: an older weirdo named Clovis likes to drink and scam people, Paul puts on Mozart and does a dramatic monologue in German, an opera-singing strongman is invited. Charles fears that he’s a boring provincial mama’s boy, then bores us talking about his provincial mama.

The contested Florence is Juliette Mayniel, first victim in Eyes Without a Face:

It would seem an innocent movie of youth in the city, but there’s the Chabrol name and all the ornamental guns around (“good thing we have no bullets”). Then Paul steals Charles’s girl, and we’ve got a meek guy living with the girl he wants and the cousin who stole her in a house full of guns, uh oh. Charles absolutely loses himself in studying, while Paul stays out getting drunk, but Paul passes his exams and Charles does not – then Charles locates the bullets.

Found a new version of Fantomas – see also the Feuillade original, the stupid 1960’s version and the surrealist 1930’s short.

Episode 1: L’Echafaud Magique

The original novels and/or serials may have been written as they went along, but in 1980 they should’ve had time to shuffle things a bit. Instead this first episode faithfully recreates the major plot points of the first Feuillade episode – master criminal Fantomas kills an ambassador, is having an affair with the dead man’s wife Lady Beltham, sneaks into a rich woman’s house handing out vanishing-ink business cards, is caught and sentenced to death but switches with an actor, who goes to the guillotine. In this version at least, Inspector Juve discovers the fake seconds after the beheading instead of seconds before – makes Fantomas’s switcheroo more of a sinister plot, less saving his own skin.

Written by Bernard Revon (two of Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel features) and directed by Claude Chabrol, who would tackle another silent-film master-criminal a decade later in Dr. M. Kind of disappointing for what used to be an adventure series – slow and talky, achieving in 90 minutes what Feuillade did in 60 (including intertitles). Fantomas doesn’t get a great introduction as a criminal mastermind, either. He starts strong, killing a woman en route to cashing in her winning lottery ticket under the nose of Juve (Jacques Dufilho of Black and White in Color). Then he breaks into the rich Princess Sonia’s house and. . . bugs her? After Juve catches on to the Lord Beltham disappearance, Fantomas is caught by the Belthams’ gardener, beaten up and handed over to the cops, then relies on his girlfriend, a gullible prison guard and incredible coincidence to escape prison.

Fantomas vs. the Princess:

Juve’s reporter friend Fandor isn’t a pre-existing character here, but the revenge-seeking orphan godson of the slain lottery-ticket woman. Juve assigns him a new name and destiny in an awkward scene.

Fantomas is Helmut Berger, star of some Visconti films. He’s good at playing both the criminal and the windbag actor doing a Fantomas play. Good to see the elegant Gayle Hunnicutt, star of Feuillade-affiliated Nuits Rouges, as Lady Beltham.

Episode 2: L’Etreinte du Diable

Directed by Juan-Luis Bunuel, immediately better than part one, more stylish and energetic. The plot is even stupider and more convoluted – a dead woman is planted in a half-deaf doctor’s house, while a gangster called Lupart has some scheme involving his prostitute girlfriend. The doctor is Fantomas (not sure about the gangster) taunting the police. Shootout at the docks follows, a definite throwback to the originals even if I don’t remember the rest.

Juve vs. Josephine:

Lady Beltham was presumed to be the dead body found earlier, but is discovered alive in a convent – and then she’s followed to her old house, where she has been secretly meeting with Fantomas. Two more good bits from the original follow, to lesser effect than in the silent – a snake attack and the house explosion that “kills” Juve.

Fantomas vs. Lady Beltham:

Episode 3: Le Mort Qui Tue

The Baroness (Danielle Godet of The Fighting Pimpernel) is told by her banker Fantomas that she is ruined. She’s soon found dead, and a young painter asleep in the same room – so the painter (Maxence Mailfort of elder Bunuel’s films and a version of Bartleby) is arrested and hangs himself in prison – then disappears from his cell. It’s always gotta be complicated.

Dead painter’s sister and Fandor are on the case, while an instantly recognizable Juve is undercover in the underground. A sweet train heist featuring a bulletproof mask breaks up all the dialogue and the pointless return of the princess from part one.

Lots more murders and robberies follow. Fantomas is discovered (he’s always hiding right in Juve and Fandor’s faces) but escapes using electromagnets, not the suit with fake arms – a fair trade.

Fandor, stopped in his tracks by magnetic floor:

Episode 4: Le Tramway Fantome

Back over to Chabrol, and it opens with Fantomas knifing a cat. Now he’s Mother Kirsh, friendly landlady in Moravia, and also a fake marquis, both framing a vacationing Fandor for murder then getting Juve caught under suspicion of being Fantomas, the master criminal whom nobody but Juve has ever seen. Lady Beltham, a kidnapped king, and trap-murders causing the cops to kill victims with strings tied to triggers and doorknobs.

Good guys:

The dubbing seems worse than usual, and the subtitles aren’t perfect but I can’t complain. “To use the alarm clock technic to kill is abominable!” Nice that F. and Lady B. get away at the end.

After playing the hellraiser in Le Ceremonie, Isabelle Huppert is back to being classy and restrained in this one. She’s the first and third wife of pianist André Polonski – he had a son by his second wife, who died in a car crash. In another part of town, Jeanne (Anna Mouglalis: Coco Chanel in the Jan Kounen film) learns from her mother that she was nearly switched at birth with Polonski’s son Guillaume. Since Jeanne is an aspiring pianist and looks up to Polonski, she takes this as a sign and visits his house, where he offers to give her private lessons.

Huppert and Dutronc:

It’s gradually revealed that icy Huppert, who runs a chocolate company, puts sedatives in the family’s chocolate every night, and drugged Guillaume’s mom the night of her car accident years ago. Jeanne drives off to the store at night with Guillaume in the car, knowing very well that she’s been drugged. Why does she do this, other than to offer us a climactic suspense scene? Huppert ends up like Sandrine Bonnaire in Le Ceremonie and Jean-Pierre Cassel in La Rupture: caught red-handed as the credits roll.

Mouglalis and Pauly, born on the same day:

All sorts of parallels and doubles – each kid is missing a parent, they were (nearly?) switched at birth, Huppert and Polonski were married twice, Jeanne dresses up as Guillaume’s mother – I’m not sure what it all adds up to, but it kept the movie from feeling thin even though very little happens, plot-wise, over 100 minutes. Guillaume is Rodolphe Pauly, who played the soldier who dies and swaps identities with Audrey Tautou’s beloved in A Very Long Engagement, and sharp-featured Jacques Dutronc was Pialat’s Van Gogh, also costarred with Huppert twenty years earlier in Godard’s Sauve qui peut (la vie).

“Perversity guides its adept (or its victim) to a form of relative solopsism that leads us to provide other examples of relative solopsism; that of the musician, for instance, with infinitely more benign consequences that are nonetheless real. We have tried to illustrate this idea by the slow dissolution of the most definite certainties of our society – here, filial descent, and so the family. The main aim is to get across the idea that all certainties melt away as the story progresses.”

“All style, no substance.”
“That’s what dreams are made of.”

Dr. M, der Spieler:

In between two highly-regarded Isabelle Huppert-starring late works by Chabrol, I watched this ambitious, now-obscure Fritz Lang homage. Almost the only mentions of it online appear in sentences such as: “Chabrol’s career wasn’t perfect; he also made disastrous flops for foreign distributors, such as the forgotten turd Dr. M.” So I was excited about the Mabuse connections (they were very slim) and M connections (there weren’t any), but kept very low expectations – then the movie turned out to be quite good.

It never tops the great opening: 3 minutes of cross-cutting between four tense, unexplained segments, each ending with a death, with a TV broadcast keeping time between locations. Looks like a high enough budget, judging from the scale of the fire and explosions that follow. So why did an interesting, high-tension sci-fi movie with good explosions turn into a failure? Well, the storyline and the actors aren’t actually all that amazingly good, rather made-for-TV quality. But more importantly, it’s set in a future where Germany was still divided by the Berlin Wall, which fell many months before the movie was released – so all of the script’s east/west occupation metaphors were seen as laughable by the time it shirked into theaters.

I’m not sure that Flashdance’s Jennifer Beals was the most bankable international star for a prestige picture, either. Beals was also in Sam Fuller’s Madonna and the Dragon in 1990, and Chabrol himself had appeared in Fuller’s Thieves After Dark a few years prior. Here she plays the spokeswoman for a vacation getaway company – Theratos – which advertises incessantly all over the city, cheapo-Blade-Runner-style. Movie was shot in Berlin and has that 70’s-80’s grimy film look, and also stars falsely-gruff-voiced German actor Jan Niklas as our rebel lieutenant hero. So maybe I overestimated the film’s budget.

Jennifer Beals:

Beals is introduced in a nuclear mosh-pit dance club. My favorite fanciful sci-fi detail in the movie is more social than technological – there’s a woman in her seventies drinking at the bar in the club amongst strobe lights and deafening thrash music. The city (or at least the TV news) is obsessed with a recent series of suicides, and Claus, the cop on the case, finds a connection to Beals, in that each suicide was darkly obsessed with her, taking photographs and advertisements with her face and mangling them. Meanwhile, her omnipresent ads for Theratos (pronounced somewhat like Toronto) has language like “drift off, let yourself go, leave it all behind, time to go” as the cops unveil more suicide victims – shades of They Live.

Claus and his partner Stieglitz (Benoit Regent: Binoche’s lover in Blue and the guy who stalks all the girls of Rivette’s Gang of Four for some reason I don’t recall) are the only two cops on the case of the suicides, and eventually, like more than halfway into the movie, they make the incredible discovery that the vortex-turtle medallions found on all the suicide victims are from Theratos! That’s right, the very logo of the company that seems to be the only advertiser in the nation, and they discover this halfway through the movie. Look, you can see it on the wall-mounted motion billboards:

But maybe the reason these two dull-wits are running the investigation is that their superiors are actually the evildoers behind the whole conspiracy. Mustachioed ham Doctor Marsfeldt (Alan Bates of Georgy Girl and the Mel Gibson Hamlet) is our Mabuse substitute, complete with a Dr-Claw-in-Inspector-Gadget array of video screens that can see anything in the city, and balding Captain Engler is his enforcer within the police. I can’t recall if Marsfeldt has some sort of government position or what power he holds over the police, exactly, but he turns out to be the owner of Theratos and father of Jennifer Beals – two things I would’ve thought would be public knowledge about the biggest company and most visible public figure in town.

Dr. M:

Filmed in English, in Berlin, so the rest of the not-great actors have a range of accents and delivery – including Peter Fitz (the lead guy’s sad-mouthed uncle in Werckmeister Harmonies), Hanns Zischler (Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, Kings of the Road) and William Berger (Devil Fish). Zischler plays Moser (pronounced Moo-zuh, reminded of Ma-bu-zuh) – not sure who he was exactly, but he got close to exposing mad doctor Marsfeldt before getting shot in the back by a LASER, one of the few reminders that we are in the future.

Return of the Jedi? No! It’s Dr. M – now with lasers!

I looked up Theratos online but the closest I found was Thanatos, the Greek death demon. I did find David Kalat’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse,” which has a whole chapter on the movie – counts as the most in-depth writing on the film to be found online, even if Google Books only has half the pages of that chapter. “Theratos is owned by Marsfeldt’s Mater Media. Like a nuclear explosion in which the atomic reaction generates the fuel that keeps itself blazing, Marsfeldt is sitting pretty on a recursive catastrophe. The more people commit suicide, the more desperate the citizens become to escape the city, the more they mob the Theratos offices to book vacations. The more people visit Theratos, the more people commit suicide. And as the cycle consumes more and more unwitting Berliners, Marsfeldt’s companies – Mater Media and Theratos – make gargantuan profits.”

The floating cult of theratos:

Kalat says it’s the last Mabuse movie to date, but as much as I want to believe, I wouldn’t even call it a Mabuse movie. There is, briefly, a character blatantly named Herr Lang. It’s definitely a stylish, intriguingly plotted movie, even if I have story detail problems and the dialogue is sometimes weak. The second-to-last Chabrol feature shot by cinematographer Jean Rabier, who also worked with Varda and Demy.

Engler and Claus:

Oh, anyway at the end the gruff cop hero (whose pregnant wife died 2 years ago, just to give his character some inner pain) saves the girl from crazies and they go off to Theratos, which isn’t as cool a getaway spot as promised by her own ads (as one attendee puts it after being isolated from his wife, “If you can’t screw on vacation, when CAN you screw?”). The cop and Beals do screw at some point, while Dr. M simultaneously watches disaster and atrocity footage on his fuzzy b/w TV – an unnecessarily disturbing detail. Eventually they break into the TV studio and Beals takes to the airwaves, saying some new agey babble about positivity that somehow undoes all the propaganda of the late-night talk hosts (have I mentioned them?) and her own Theratos ad campaign, as across the city people put down their suicide weapons and go on with their lives.

“Dr. M stresses the fact that we are continuously manipulated… and that political speak has invaded every circle. … This is why, faced with steely-hearted strategy experts and computer brains, I hope that my film will be stimulating, since it does homage to lucidity as our only defensive weapon.”

First of three Chabrol memorial screenings in September. I remember liking his Le Beau Serge and L’Enfer from the dark pre-blog days, and since then I’ve greatly enjoyed La Rupture and been slightly disappointed in A Girl Cut In Two. Obviously for such a Rivette/Truffaut/Varda/Rohmer/Marker/Godard (not to mention Hitchcock) fan as myself, that’s not enough attention paid to a founding New Waver with over 50 films to his name.

The Guardian’s headline the day Chabrol’s death was announced read “Claude Chabrol anatomised the French middle class with a twist of the scalpel,” which could almost be a poster description of this movie, but maybe changed to “with a blast of the shotgun.” Immediately after watching it was impossible to avoid comparing it to Funny Games – they’re not similar in plot so much as in impact.

The great Isabelle Huppert (I wonder if Haneke had felt the Funny Games connection when he cast her in The Piano Teacher) got much attention and acclaim for this movie, but younger Sandrine Bonnaire (just off Joan the Maid) is the central character. She takes a housekeeper job for the Lelievre family (Jacqueline Bisset of Day for Night and Under the Volcano and Jean-Pierre Cassel, the amoral baddie in La Rupture), which she performs dutifully and quietly, keeping her personal life to herself, until she starts spending more time with fiery friend Huppert, a postal clerk long suspected by Cassel to be reading the family’s mail.

The two women egg each other on, growing more defiant in the faces of authority (Bonnaire’s employers, the church where Huppert volunteers) and more disturbingly, finding out about each others’ dark, possibly murderous pasts. Seems like a hard place to keep secrets, and Bonnaire’s past has managed to follow her into these distant suburbs. But the one thing she doesn’t want discovered is her illiteracy, so when the family daughter (Virginie Ledoyen of Cold Water & 8 Women) finds out and threatens to tell, it’s the beginning of the end.

Possibly dyslexic Bonnaire trying to read a note… filmed in a mirror (nice touch)

Sure I noticed the blatant introduction of shotguns into the movie earlier (Cassel cleans them in prep for a hunting outing) but I didn’t quite think it would come to this: Bonnaire and Huppert sneak into the house after Bonnaire has been fired for threatening the daughter, and they quietly trash the place while the family watches opera on television, each pretending to enjoy the opera for the sake of the others (that’s how it seemed to me anyway – and I think Cassel really does enjoy it). Then, when discovered stalking the kitchen with shotguns in hand, they blow away the entire family. Also didn’t see coming, despite the blatant early introduction of Huppert’s car troubles, that her getaway stalls in the middle of the road and she’s killed by oncoming traffic (her former employer the priest drove the other vehicle). Killer finale: as Bonnaire walks past the accident scene, emergency workers play the tape machine recovered from Huppert’s car, which was set up by the family son to record the opera but instead faithfully recorded the entire crime.

NY Times: “When Sophie arrives by train to begin her new job, she turns up on the wrong side of the tracks. This film takes quiet, devilish pleasure in every such hint of something awry. For instance, there is the impassive way that Sophie behaves around the Lelievres, and how it contrasts with her coarse, ravenous manner when she’s eating alone.” Senses of Cinema: “In crime fiction, criminal behaviour is often not so much a result of free agency as something determined by psychological and social factors. However, in Chabrol, the urge to explain crime is undermined by the competing view that evil itself is unexplainable. Sophie and Jeanne’s illicit behaviour is not simply a compulsive backlash against class inequality but a curiously ordained ritual.”

Bonnaire likes to watch movies on the TV in her room – I recognized Stéphane Audran from La Rupture in one of them, and sure enough it’s 1970’s Chabrol film Wedding In Blood they are viewing.

“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.


“Every girl is beautiful… until they kill somebody.”

Wowie wow wow, the acting (or the dubbing) by our two leads is terrrrible. But I’ve seen this once before so I knew that and could focus on other things this time. Nice title music by Ennio Morricone, decent camerawork and good shot choices. Ultimately a stupid movie though, not half as good (or half as ludicrous) as Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street. Worth watching only for Fuller completists like myself, or possibly for Claude Chabrol’s loony performance.

Bobby’s silhouette getting nabbed backstage:

Bobby Di Cicco, who I don’t remember being completely horrible in The Big Red One, is a loser wannabe musician who sneaks into the orchestra every night and watches from backstage. He meets Véronique Jannot at the unemployment office and they decide to take revenge on the agents there who humiliate the two while failing to find them work. First up is a mustache-grooming woman they call Mussolini, then a pervert they call Tartuffe played with campy hilarity by Claude Chabrol.

C.C. wearing funny gloves:

But when Tartuffe falls out the window (in an incident of neighborly peeping gone wrong) our two hero losers are on the run, assisted by Bobby’s music-shop-owning ex-con buddy and a girl they met while breaking into her dad’s house. These two accomplices (whom our heroes seem to barely know, but are willing to assault cops to help them get away) are nearly as awful actors as our heroes, but they have better voices… his is low and TV-cop-show-like, hers is small and airy.

Oh yeah, here’s Bobby:

And what’s her name, Veronica:

Presumably (or hopefully) the accomplices are arrested for being horrible liars. Our couple goes on the run. In a snowy small town rest stop en route to Spain, a loose-cannon ex-cop is introduced only moments before pulling out his gun and blasting away, killing Veronica. Bobby is wounded, somehow makes it back to Paris only to sneak into the orchestra, con his way onstage and die mid-performance… nice.

Movie isn’t a total waste of time – there are a few nuts scenes… some pretend-incest that seems to repulse/turn on landlady Christa Lang… Sam Fuller as “Zoltan” a jewelry fence and death-scene enthusiast with an eyepatch concealing a magnifying contact lens… the outer-space sound effects over Ennio Morricone’s score on the final scene.



Cameo as a brothel madam by Micheline Presle of some Demy movies, The Nun, I Want To Go Home and American Guerrilla in the Philippines:

NY Times called it “a rather mediocre crime story about a Bonnie-and-Clyde couple.” The video box calls it a tribute to the French New Wave. I’m not sure how, exactly… unless the final shootout in the snow is in memory of Shoot The Piano Player.

A high-quality euro-arthouse movie like Roman de gare (but probably better), more subtle than its subject matter would seem to warrant. Chabrol’s rep as the French Hitchcock is either exaggerated or based on his movies that I haven’t watched yet, because this and L’Enfer and Le Beau Serge aren’t so Hitchcockian.

Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier of Love Songs and 8 Women) falls for rich old guy Charles (François Berléand of the Transporter trilogy and Au revoir les enfants). Charles has an unexplained antagonistic relationship with young flamboyant rich guy Paul (Benoît Magimel, the young lover in The Piano Teacher). Paul falls for Gabrielle and wants to marry her, take her away from Charles.

Paul looks dangerous; is dangerous

This isn’t all happening at once like the trailer implies, though. First G. has a long impassioned affair with lying, married, sexually deviant Charles, who often acts cold towards her and pretends he doesn’t want her anymore. Girls love that, so she keeps coming back. Then after he’s left her for good and she’s super-heartbroken, she finally agrees to go out with Paul, who arrives screaming with crazy hair, all Written on the Wind, being held in check by his chauffeur. He cleans up his act so G. will go out with him, but sometimes he loses it and tries to strangle her. Girls love that, so she keeps coming back, and a year later they get married. Then at a ball, Paul shoots Charles to death, goes to jail, and disowns Gabrielle, who goes on to act as the beautiful assistant that gets cut in half in her uncle’s magic show.

I liked, but didn’t love it. Fun ending, great acting. I thought Caroline Sihol as Paul’s mom looked familiar, but I haven’t seen anything else she’s been in (some Truffaut and Resnais and La Vie en rose). Based on a true story in 1906 New York, but transplanted to modern Europe. Movie contains a conspicuous mention of Woody Allen, who himself is from early-1900’s New York and transplanted to modern Europe.

Gabrielle with peacock tail (washed-out color courtesy of online trailer)

There’s no shortage of online reviews for this… I liked best the one by K. Mitsuda in Reverse Shot:

Serving as both subject and object, Gabrielle is a deliberately confusing amalgam of striking dualities. […] The appeal Gabrielle holds for Charles and Paul in particular is symbolized in the shorthand of her last name: Snow. Attracted foremost to her youth and naivete – signifiers of virtue – the competing suitors often affectionately describe her as either “innocent” or an “angel.” […] Chabrol ingeniously suggests that the inability of the men to accept her complexity results in a reductive worldview that inexorably leads to a violent ending.

And S. Tobias:

The film takes the form of a thriller, but it doesn’t have the pace of one. Still, all that careful, deliberate table-setting allows Chabrol to establish the complex dynamic between the three characters and underline the role that money and privilege plays in sabotaging Sagnier’s life.

Le Coup du berger, or, Fool’s Mate or maybe Checkmate, with an all-star new wave crew. Rivette directed and narrated, Straub assistant-directed, Chabrol wrote, Truffaut and Godard had cameos, and Cahiers cofounder Jacques Doniol-Valcroze played the husband.

A woman’s lover (Brialy, he of the luxurious hair in Claire’s Knee) gives her a fur coat and she wants to keep it, but she’ll look suspicious to her husband. She they concoct a foolish plan: she pretends to find an airport claim check in a cab and has him pick up the case, where she’ll be pleasantly surprised to get a free fur coat! But he twists the plan by replacing the coat with something cheap and giving them good one to HIS lover. Gotcha!

A decent little flick… worth a look, but as Keith Uhlich in Slant says, it’s more Chabrol’s film than Rivette’s. He also says “the whole thing is shallow and obvious in ways that Rivette’s features never are”. I wouldn’t go that far, but I wasn’t assessing its worth in the Rivette canon, just watching for the fun of it.