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The Mother Load

Maternal bondage: Sarandon and Roberts in Stepmom
Demmie Todd
Maternal bondage: Sarandon and Roberts in Stepmom

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Stepmom
Directed by Chris Columbus
Written by Gigi Levangie, Jessie Nelson, Steven Rogers, Karen Leigh Hopkins, and Ron Bass
A Columbia Pictures release
Opens December 25

Down in the Delta
Directed by Maya Angelou
Written by Myron Goble
A Miramax release
Opens December 25

The Swindle
Written and directed by Claude Chabrol
A New Yorker Films release

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Claude Chabrol specializes in bleak social comedies and brutal historic melodramas that take a pickax to the economic and power relationships of the bourgeoisie. The Swindle, his 50th film, is a failed attempt at frivolity. Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault play a pair of con artists, long-term partners who, despite a 25-year age difference, may have been lovers at some time in the past. In any event, this is a symbiotic relationship. Their most ambitious caper takes them from Paris to the Swiss mountain resort of Sils-Maria (where Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra)to the Caribbean. The scenery is fetchingly photographed, as is Huppert, who changes wigs as often as others change their underpants. Even in the most tired situations, Chabrol has a few sophisticated filmmaking tricks up his sleeve. Thus the double-crossing protagonists have a visual correlative in traveling shots where it's impossible to tell if it's the cars or the camera that's changed direction.

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