Directors on the Verge

In the end, however, every haphazard digression, from the creepy "fetish" kept by the appliance store's middle-aged cashier to the lunch hour the shopgirls spend in the zoo, comes together in a trap as implacable as anything in the thrillers Chabrol admired. Deeply unsettling, Les Bonnes Femmes manages a dialectic between the freewheeling and fatalistic unlike anything else in Chabrol's oeuvre.

Even more provocative, Nagisa Oshima's Cruel Story of Youth did more than any other movie to establish the notion of a Japanese new wave. On its home ground, the director's third feature must have seemed like a local Rebel Without a Cause—it's set in a student milieu, populated by teenage gangs, and driven by adolescent risk-taking. As filmmaking, this wide-screen, candy-colored extravaganza is directed with considerable brio and filled with bold metaphors. Oshima splatters his title credits on a newspaper and films a scene against an actual student demonstration. His alienated antihero pushes the provocative antiheroine into polluted water as a prelude to satisfying her sexual curiosity. (Later, they celebrate their love by riding a stolen motorbike into the ocean.)

Details

Bowfinger
Directed by Frank Oz
Written by Steve Martin
A Universal Pictures release
Opens August 13

Les Bonnes Femmes
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Written by Chabrol and Paul Gégauff
A Kino International release
At the Walter Reade, August 13–19

Cruel Story of Youth
Written and directed by Nagisa Oshima
A New Yorker Film release
At Film Forum, August 13–19

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Oshima was 28, two years younger than Chabrol, when he made Cruel Story of Youth, and his movie is even more bitter in its generational politics. But if Oshima's worldview is basically Marxist—or Reichian—and Chabrol's fundamentally Catholic, they are equally extreme in their social disgust. Both linking love and death, their movies are equally predicated on the spectacle of powerless men preying upon even weaker women. Such romantic antiromantic politics are dated, to be sure, but what's even more anachronistic about these two movies is their absence of cynicism and even careerism.

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