Crime Scene Investigations From an Aging New Waver


From where we sit, Claude Chabrol may seem to be the most ubiquitous of the aging French New Wavers, but only about half of his last quarter-century’s output has made it to American theaters. A superb sociological mystery, The Color of Lies (1999) examines what happens to a small Breton village when a schoolgirl’s raped body is discovered in the woods. The quiet implosions hit primarily between a moody painter on a career downturn (Jacques Gamblin), his supportive but restless wife (Sandrine Bonnaire), and an intolerably pretentious celebrity-writer (Antoine de Caunes) on the make, but the emotional repercussions spiral out to touch the entire community. In his surest Simenonian mode, Chabrol balances the hidden, the exposed, and the philosophical with little fuss, and the characters are all drawn with a scalpel— including Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s masterfully idiosyncratic portrait of a meek-voiced yet fearlessly confrontational police inspector. (De Caunes’s self-pumped litterateur is a triumphant piece of social satire.) Co-written with longtime Chabrol collaborator Odile Barski, the movie is a deft genre étude and provincial interrogation of a kind Chabrol has made his own. Clearing the Chabrol shelf, Kino is also releasing Betty (1992), the deux femmes psychodrama adapted from Simenon and starring Marie Trintignant and Stéphane Audran; L’Enfer (1994), the well-loved Emmanuelle Béart nastiness based on a script by Henri-Georges Clouzot; as well as two policiers that never emerged here, Cop du Vin (1985) and Inspecteur Lavardin (1986), both with mega-suave Jean Poiret as a detective snuffling around small-town homicides. All five films come with trailers and audiovisual appreciations by author and critic Joel Magny.