Catherine (Jacqueline Bisset) hires the illiterate Sophie as her maid. But Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) soon falls under the influence of the mysterious Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), and the stage is set for a tale of murder, violence and betrayal.
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There's a practical matter-of-factness to the way Chabrol handles the material; focusing in on the small details of human interaction; the seemingly trivial relationships. The effect numbs the audience to the underlining emotional instability; the routines & repetitions of characters leaving us ill-prepared for the inevitable fury of its final act. The result is like Hitchcock by way of Bresson. The work of a master.
Perhaps THE great film about malevolence & how inherent it is in nature. Sallitt is profoundly right: LA CEREMONIE feels quite perfect, but quite depressing. Its thesis, which Chabrol does not refute, has everything to do with man's capacity to harm. Chabrol has an uncanny ability of establishing ominousness by way of precise camera movement & punctual shot juxtaposition. The aesthetic is close to MARNIE at times.
Right from the start, Chabrol creates an atmosphere of something being wrong although the surface seems calm. Bonnaire and Huppert both give chilling performances as two women with mysterious pasts and dark secrets. The cinematography is tight, almost graceful and yet establishes a sense of dread as the story unfolds and finally explodes in the face of the audience. Highy recommended, surely among Chabrols best work.
Strange lesbian psychodrama about a dyslexic maid who's obsessed with watching television and her postal clerk friend who reads other people's mail. The maid works for an upper crust family who's favorite activities are implied to be whoring, incest, and abuse. Chabrol is a master manipulator and packs so many little details into each frame he just leaves you in awe, and keeps twisting that knife of suspense.