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France / Canada, 1977 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Claude Chabrol

Through the varied genres of filmmaking that Claude Chabrol has attempted in his prolific career — thriller, melodrama, fantasy — one concern has remained constant, his exploration of family relations and the way they act against a wider social context. In Violette Noziere, Chabrol retells the true slory of a tragedy in a working class family in the mid-1930s.

Eighteen-year-old Violette. still at school, lives with her parents in a cramped, two room apartment. She is brought up very strictly by her mother, who has social ambitions for her daughter, but Violette manages to lead a double life. Secretly changing her clothes, she turns into a somewhat shabby cocotte, and lives out her fantasies of extravagance and promiscuity in the Latin Quarter. She is occasionally paid for her casual affairs: she blackmails M. Emile with letters purporting to prove that he is her father; but mostly she steals from her mother's savings.

When she overhears her parents saying that they will give her no more money until she marries, she decides Jo kill them. Her doctor tells her she has syphilis. She persuades her credulous parents that it is a congenital disease, and under the guise of medicine, doses them with poison. Her mother becomes ill, is taken to hospital and recovers.

Violette has strange dreams, and she meets a young student. Jean Dabin, who resembles a man she had seen in a dream; they start a passionate affair, which leads to further stealing and prostitution.

At home, she continues with the poisoning of her parents, and this time succeeds in killing her father, but her mother survives to bring her daughter to court.

During the court case. Violette claims that at the age of thirteen she was raped by her father; her mother accuses Dabin of being an accomplice to the murder; the identity of M. Emile remains elusive. Violette is convicted, but her death sentence is commuted, and her term later reduced to twelve years. In the ensuing political scandal around the trial, she goes on to marry the prison clerk's son. and bears five children before her death in 1963, shortly before which, in an unprecedented move, full civil rights are restored to her.

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