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Hump Day Inspiration: Chabrol & Hitchcock at the Pacific Film Archive

January 26, 2011

still from Chabrol's 1969 film "La Femme Infidele"

A founding member of the French New Wave, director Claude Chabrol passed away in September at the age of eighty having made over sixty films. The Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley is currently presenting a generous sampling of his work, in conjunction with some of Hitchcock’s finest; two “masters of suspense,” together at last.

‘Like Hitchcock, Chabrol is the consummate craftsman; his films flow with the ease and assurance of someone who understands the power of cinema to manipulate emotion, while simultaneously embracing—and winking at—such power. “I am a farceur,” he once admitted. “You have to avoid taking yourself too seriously.” Unlike Hitchcock, though, Chabrol hits harder, with a steely condemnation of upper-class values and a weighty moral resonance in his tales of infidelity, suspense, and murder. In a use of genre similar to his other great influence, Fritz Lang, “the stories he chooses become the frameworks for clear-eyed subtle explorations of guilt, innocence, and accountability,” wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times.’

Friday, January 28, 2011
9:00 p.m. Les Cousins
Claude Chabrol (France, 1959). A country lad comes to Paris to live with his sophisticated, debauched urban cousin in Chabrol’s second film, fascinating for its glimpse of Parisian student life in the Latin Quarter of the late fifties, and its “remarkable collection of faces…and some of the best orgies on film” (Pauline Kael). (112 mins)

Saturday, January 29, 2011
8:20 p.m. Le Boucher
Claude Chabrol (France, 1970). Two misfits—a Parisian schoolteacher and a shy butcher—find each other by stages in the rural Dordogne region as a serial killer stalks their town, in Chabrol’s noirish update of Beauty and the Beast. “Both a love story and a horror movie . . . recorded with the fervor of a Balzac” (Village Voice). (93 mins)

Friday, February 4, 2011
7:00 p.m. La Femme infidèle
Claude Chabrol (France, 1969). In this brilliant portrait of marriage interruptus, a successful insurance broker, Charles (Michel Bouquet), suspects that his wife Hélène (Stéphane Audran) has a lover, and she does. “A model of psychological nuance, La Femme infidèle is both perverse and touching”(TIFF Cinematheque). “Exquisitely detailed, impeccably acted, stunningly directed” (Pauline Kael). (102 mins)

Friday, February 4, 2011
9:00 p.m. Violette Nozière
Claude Chabrol (France, 1978). A rare screening of Chabrol’s classic, chilling portrait of a parricidal teenager in 1930s France. “The riveting Huppert provides a brilliant portrait of inscrutable fatalism behind an impenetrable mask” (Village Voice). (122 mins)

Saturday, February 5, 2011
8:35 p.m. Vertigo
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1958). Detective Jimmy Stewart combs the Bay Area looking for the secret behind Kim Novak’s beauty in Hitchcock’s sinister ode to voyeurism, death, and amorous fixation. “Perhaps the finest film starring San Francisco” (San Francisco Chronicle). (128 mins)

Friday, February 11, 2011
7:00 p.m. Rope
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1948). Hitchcock’s tale of two young men who attempt the perfect murder was infamously shot to resemble one long, continuous take. “Not merely a stunt that is justified by the extraordinary career that contains it, but one of the movies that makes that career extraordinary” (New York Times). (80 mins)

Friday, February 11, 2011
8:40 p.m. Inspector Lavardin
Claude Chabrol (France, 1986). Inspector Lavardin finds that the wife of the murdered man in his latest case is a woman he loved twenty years earlier, in Chabrol’s Vertigo-like thriller. “The kind of whodunit or policier which can be opened up to a delighted anarchy” (Monthly Film Bulletin). (97 mins)

Saturday, February 12, 2011
7:00 p.m. Madame Bovary
Claude Chabrol (France, 1991). Huppert captures the title character, destroyed by an oppressive provincial society and her own romantic delusions, in Claude Chabrol’s intelligent, rigorously faithful adaptation of the great Flaubert novel, done “to make the film Flaubert would have made had he a camera instead of a pen.” (140 mins)

Sunday, February 13, 2011
5:00 p.m. Story of Women
Claude Chabrol (France, 1989). Claude Chabrol’s austere and compelling portrait of Marie Latour, a housewife-turned-abortionist in occupied France, played by Huppert as “a cold but oddly sympathetic everywoman”(Chicago Reader). (104 mins)

Friday, February 18, 2011
7:00 p.m. Betty
Claude Chabrol (France, 1992). Pretty young Betty (Marie Trintignant) washes up at a seedy bar, drunk, bleary, and lost, and begins to recount a tale of marriage and motherhood gone bad to an older, sympathetic woman (Stéphane Audran), in Chabrol’s “ferociously accurate portrayal of two women who no longer fit the bourgeois mold” (Variety). From a novel by Georges Simenon. (103 mins)

Friday, February 18, 2011
9:00 p.m. La Cérémonie
Claude Chabrol (France, 1995). Based on Ruth Rendell’s A Judgment in Stone, Claude Chabrol’s acclaimed thriller pits a stolid new maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) and an insolent postmistress (Isabelle Huppert) against a too-comfortable bourgeois family in a scenario that plays as “theater-of-cruelty Marx” (Village Voice). (111 mins)

Saturday, February 19, 2011
8:50 p.m. The Swindle
Claude Chabrol (France, 1998). Two con artists—the older, elegant Michel Serrault and the younger, beautiful Isabelle Huppert—may be in over their heads when they attempt a “long con.” Chabrol’s fiftieth film, a combination of a Mamet-like tale of confidence hucksters and To Catch A Thief-like international glamour. “Made with the practiced ease of a master” (Roger Ebert). (105 mins)

Friday, February 25, 2011
9:05 p.m. Merci pour le chocolat
Claude Chabrol (France/Switzerland, 2000). Swiss chocolate flows in the veins of the haute bourgeois family at the center of Chabrol’s “witty psychological thriller, more gothic than noir . . . Self-contained, enigmatic, illuminated from within, Huppert banks a performance that pays dividends throughout the film” (Village Voice). (99 mins)

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