During the Nazi occupation of France, a young woman, Marie, provides an abortion service for pregnant women who are single or whose husbands are away from home. She keeps this a secret from her husband, using the money to help out a prostitute friend, Lulu, and also to pay for singing lessons. Marie has ambitions of becoming a great singer one day. Unable to love her husband, Marie has an affair with a younger man. When he discovers his wife’s infidelity, her husband inflicts a cruel revenge on Marie which leads to an unexpectedly tragic outcome.
This is another fine film from one of France’s most popular and prolific directors, Claude Chabrol. It is a film that has the mood and feel of the deceptively simple thrillers for which Chabrol is better known. However, because it is set during perhaps the most controversial and bitter periods of recent French history, the film makes a strong political comment and it is this which gives the film its momentum and impact.
The self-righteousness and unashamed cowardice of the Vichy régime is clearly the villain of the piece. At a time when women are subject to rape and forced into prostitution – which the state does nothing about (probably because it would upset the German overlords) – the same state brutally condemns those who practice abortion under a sham of moral rectitude. The hypocrasy of the Vichy régime is hardly an original subject for the cinema, but this film does tackle the issue from an unusual angle and does it with great humanity and effect.
It is also worth adding that the film is a real triumph for Isabelle Huppert. Her portrayal of Marie is deeply moving and probably her most memorable screen performance to date. Most of the emotional impact of the film in its last few minutes derives from a very creditable piece of acting on her part. –filmsdefrance.com
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