Director: Claude Chabrol
Claude Chabrol's Le Boucher was shown at last year's Melbourne Festival, and he is represented again this year by Les Noces Rouges, (Blood Wedding). According to Chabrol, this is the last film of his Comedie humaine about mid-twentieth century French society. The film was withheld by the French censor for over a month, officially because it might have influenced the decision of jurors in a celebrated murder trial then in progress. But Chabrol's statements indicate the government was worried that the film's suggestion of political corruption might influence the country's elections.
Again, Chabrol focuses on upper-middle class, small-town characters. Paul is the pompous mayor of Vafencay, sexually impotent, married to Lucienne, who seems to listen with rapt attention to his speeches at school theatricals. But she and her illegitimate daughter mock him behind his back. Paul needs a partner for a scheme to speculate in cheap housing; he chooses Pierre and asks him to stand for the office of deputy mayor.
Pierre is married to Clotilde, a sexually repressed neurotic who indulges herself by stocking the refrigerator with chicken. Pierre and Lucienne become lovers, and their impatient coupling is imaged in erotic and hilarious sequences. To further his affair, Pierre poisons his wife, but the townspeople believe she has taken an over-dose.
Meanwhile, Paul reveals his housing scheme to Pierre who reluctantly agrees to it. Then Paul discovers Pierre's affair with his wife and waits to trap them.
They, however, plan to murder him in a faked car accident. After the car has gone up in (lames, the police suspect Lucienne's account of the accident, but a telephone call from the President orders that there be no further investigation. The daughter, though, is not satisfied, and she forces a confession.
'Chabrol's constantly right feel for the suffocating atmosphere of a closed-in social milieu, the fine playing, the shrewd jollops of suspense in an everyday setting and the habits and outlooks of his characters are all brilliantly blocked out as well as the catalysing effects of their violence.'
'His tone and manner are the aciform irony we have to expect, tempered in (can it be said once again?) the hell of a Langian trap and the revelational - if not redemptive - Hitchcockian confessional.'
David Overbay, Sight and Sound
FIPRESCI Prize, Berlin.