Of the hallowed group of Cahiers du cinéma critics turned filmmakers who would transform French film history, Claude Chabrol was the first to direct his own feature. His stark and absorbing landmark debut, Le beau Serge, follows a successful yet sickly young man (Jean‑Claude Brialy) who returns home to the small village where he grew up. There, he finds himself at odds with his former close friend (Gérard Blain)—now unhappily married and a wretched alcoholic—and the provincial life he represents. The remarkable and raw Le beau Serge heralded the arrival of a cinematic titan who would go on to craft provocative, entertaining films for five more decades. –The Criterion Collection
Widely credited as the founding father of the French Nouvelle Vague movement, Claude Chabrol is responsible for a body of work that is as prolific as it is boldly defined. A master of the suspense thriller, Chabrol approaches his subjects with a cold, distanced objectivity that has led at least one critic to liken him to a compassionate but unsentimental god viewing the foibles and follies of his creations. Inherent in all of Chabrol’s thrillers is the observation of the clash between bourgeois value and barely-contained, oftentimes violent passion. This clash gives the director’s work a melodramatic quality that has allowed him to drift between the realm of the art film and that of popular entertainment.
Born in Paris on June 24, 1930, Chabrol was educated at the University of Paris, where he was a pharmacology student, and at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques. Following some military service, he developed an interest in the cinema and worked for a brief time in the publicity… read more
I found the direction remarkably fluid for a first-time director, not to mention it economizes on stylistic flourishes for a more direct, incisive approach in terms of narrative, you get the feeling you're being led by a confident man with a keen sense of pacing and atmosphere. I thought it was great.
"The 400 Blows" and "Breathless" were bigger and remain more famous, but this was the first of the New Wave directors feature length debuts, and though it doesn't have the jump cutting and montages and frenzy of an early Truffaut or Godard, Chabrol brings it in with a fresh attitude towards location and relationships.
Criterion releases Chabrol’s first two features, while The Strange Case of Angelica is out from Cinema Guild. Plus, more new DVDs.