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A kind of confessional realism is bound up with a fictional form in this latest film from Claude Chabrol. His regular scriptwriter, Paul Gegauff, based the story on the break-up of his own common-law marriage, and the leading roles in the film are taken by himself, his former mistress and their daughter. On screen, they appear to be reliving the trauma of the relationship.
Gegauff is presented as a not particularly likeable character: about forty, a wolfish looking man, violent and outspoken, whose ideas on 'liberty' drive his woman into an affair. He works on a magazine and lives in a country house where he invites his friends every weekend and holds forth on politics, although he has no real insights. While he dallies rather unsuccessfully with a girl, his mistress has an affair with a man whom he doesn't like. One night Gegauff forces her to return to him, and even to lick his feet. She leaves him again and he marries a wealthy English girl. But he is drawn back to his mistress and their compulsive, unsatisfactory and violent relationship.
'A bitter, laconic but depth-charged film about a man, his little daughter and his two women (which) contrasts gracious living with ungracious emotions.'
Penelope Houston, Sight and Sound