Sunday, 19 September 2010

Le Boucher and Chabrol


A week after the death of the eminent film-maker, Claude Chabrol, I’ve watched one of his most famous movies, Le Boucher. It’s not exactly a homage to Hitchcock, but the influence of the master of suspense is evident in a various ways, most notably in the appealing yet repressed blonde heroine, played by Chabrol’s wife, Stephane Audran.

At a wedding in the idyllic village where she is in charge of a small school, she meets a butcher called Popaul, who has returned after 15 years in the army. They strike up a slow-burning friendship, but the community is rocked when a woman is murdered in a nearby wood. A tramp is suspected, but there are no real clues.

Soon, in a very memorable scene, a second woman’s body is discovered, during the course of a school outing. Near the corpse, the teacher discovers a lighter that she gave to the butcher. She hides it, but her trust in him is destroyed and the story develops from there through a doom-laden sequence of events.

Chabrol, who also wrote the screenplay, favoured simple plots and complicated characterisation, and this film demonstrates his approach well. It’s not in any sense a whodunit, but it is a disturbing and noteworthy example of French film. No wonder Hitchcock said he wished he’d made it.

11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for sharing this review. As a Hitchcock fan, I should have seen this one before, and just haven't. Your review has made me want to look it up...

Mason Canyon said...

You have definitely peaked my interest. So many questions to answer. This sounds like an intriguing plot. I agree with Margot, I'll have to look this one up. Thanks.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks. It's not Vertigo, but it's interesting and memorable, all the same.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My favorite Chabrol. But I love almost all of them.

Martin Edwards said...

Any other recommends, Patti?

Xavier said...

My favorite Chabrol is The Beast Must Die, with The Ceremony a close second. I also like Ten Day's Wonder even though most critics and Chabrol himself hated it.
You may not know that Chabrol wrote crime stories before making it as a director - I own the issue of the French edition of EQMM where his very first story was published. The foreword to the story is delightful as editors predicted he would certainly become an author of note - which was true, though not in the medium they thought.

Xavier said...

My favorite Chabrol is The Beast Must Die, with The Ceremony a close second. I also like Ten Day's Wonder even though most critics and Chabrol himself hated it.
You may not know that Chabrol wrote crime stories before making it as a director - I own the issue of the French edition of EQMM where his very first story was published. The foreword to the story is delightful as editors predicted he would certainly become an author of note - which was true, though not in the medium they thought.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Xavier,I must watch more of his films. I didn't know he wrote fiction - is it good?

Xavier said...

Martin,

Actually I haven't read it yet. The issue is part of a batch that I bought last week at a yard sale* and I've only had time so far to sample the contents; you can imagine my surprise when I saw Chabrol among the likes of Edmund Crispin, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, Melville Davisson Post, Ellery Queen (of course) and Pierre Boileau.

* 55 issues for only €5!

Xavier said...

Chabrol in the eighties and nineties served as the editor-in-chief of the French imprint Rivages/Mystères, introducing or re-introducing French readers to Hake Talbot, Cyril Hare, Peter Dickinson, Charlotte Armstrong, Anthony Shaffer or Michael Dibdin.

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting. And a Boileau short story???!! Tell me more when you've read it, please!