Updated RankingsLe beau Serge
(1958)★ ★ ½
Letterboxd comment about how many directors from the French New Wave came out fully formed with outstanding debuts, and I’m inclined to agree. This one is interesting because I see the remnants of early French cinema I can’t engage with and small flickers of Chabrol’s Hitchcock appreciation. While everyone else was studying Hitch’s style, Chabrol had a good sense of the filmmaker’s mental chess games. While not a thriller, there’s a unique building of tension beneath the surface that is like a starting point that builds to La Cérémonie towards the end of Chabrol's career.Les Bonnes Femme
Until the ending this was like an anomaly for Chabrol. Wild and unpredictable, it’s perhaps best viewed as a series of short films or a celebration of adult freedom, similar to La Dolce Vita, where I had the same problem of not being able to connect with the characters. With the story shifting tone and point-of-view, I felt monotony more than momentum. That ending (which is where things become familiar Chabrol) puts an exclamation point on everything. Might play better with a rewatch.This Man Must Die
(1969)★ ★ ½
Similar in tone to The Butcher. A basic revenge plot – father looks to kill the person who ran over his son – is complicated by the man getting involved in the killer’s family. While the villain shows no redeeming characteristics (turns out everyone would be happier if he was dead), there’s a sister and a son who keep the revenge from going cold-blooded. I’m not writing off Chabrol’s thriller inside a domestic drama approach, I just don’t find the drama to be all that interesting. I think of how The Talented Mr. Ripley fulfilled both genres exceptionally while this is kind of frustrating.Story of Women
I found no proof that this was remade as Vera Drake, but there are many similarities. This version piles on the misery like Iñárritu. Set in occupied France (1941) not only does Isabelle Huppert’s character give abortions for rent money, she’s in a loveless marriage, begins a doomed liaison with another man and is concerned over the disappearance of a Jewish neighbor. She can’t trust her lawyer, the judge, even her kids are largely a burden. The deck is staked against her by the men, and she’s only truly happy when dancing alone. As expected, Huppert gives a great performance, but the story is like conservative Republican propaganda on the dangers to women who demand equal rights.