16 May 2020 | ulicknormanowen
Not your usual Chabrol.
Critically speaking ,this Chabrol film , released between "Violette Nozières" and "Les Fantômes du Chapelier " ,was greeted with a poor reception in France and it flopped at the box office .Obviously,the director had tackled a subject which was unfamiliar to his usual world,although he had depicted a rural background with talent in the past ("le beau serge" and his masterpiece "le boucher").
Objections to his adaptation of a best-seller remain : the costumes look too brand new, the opening scene of the wedding look like a tourist folklore show, complete with dances ,songs ,binious (Breton bag -pipes)and bolées (bowlfuls of cider);never ,in a month of Sundays,you feel the (real) poverty of Brittany at the turn of the century ,before WW1 broke out.There's something worse: the Britton language is almost never used ,hence their culture is passed over in silence .Chabrol's depictions are overpolished ,and even when the "chienne du monde" (destitution) sweeps on them,the director contents himself with making a woman say to a beggar 'I've got nothing".
Detailed retrospection illumines different aspects of the movie,which were overlooked by the critics of the time of issue. You must remember it's not really a story ,but a chronicle of Britton slices of life.
The stanglehold religion had on this region ,even after the separation of the Church and the State in 1905 : the coming of the smug député (member of the parlament,congressman)is revealing :the school is par excellence secular ,its language is French ,and its God the Republic.The third republic,which ,in fueling the revenge spirit of the 1870 defeat, prepared the union sacrée (united front presented by the FRench against the enemy in 1914);In Brittany ,the most famous bard ,Theodore Botrel, was a diehard patriot who would sing "a French must live for her (France),for her a Britton must die ".And die,they did ,en masse, even though Chabrol 's depictions are not very convincing , except for the hard labor women left alone had to face .
Chabrol comes out best when he depicts the outcome of the religious stranglehold on the peasants : "the Relevailles" (churching) : a woman who just gave birth to a child had committed "a fault " and had to stay in bed for a certain period of time ,because she "took a bite of the apple " and "still smells of the fruit "; the wedding night is extremely modest , they sleep on lits- clos ( box beds).
One learns that ,though their region borders on a sea and on an ocean , the Britton cannot swim :the reason is that they can't undress ,because "Eden is far away" .
The first thing they do to celebrate the end of WW 2 is a procession to thank the Lord and the Blessed Virgin.
Taken in isolation of the costumed Brittons which recall postcards they sell to today's tourists ,Jean Rabier's cinematography is splendid indeed when he films the landscapes (his work on previous " Le Boucher" has remained memorable).
If you're going to watch this movie and to appreciate it in several respects,you should forget everything you know about Chabrol's body of work.