20 May 2010 | Bunuel1976
M. LE MAUDIT (Claude Chabrol, 1982; TV) **1/2
Though he is known as "the French Hitchcock", Chabrol has admitted to bearing an equal affinity with the work of another master – Fritz Lang. In fact, there were two explicit cases within his filmography to prove this point: the short subject under review – which is a condensation of Lang's sociological masterpiece M (1931) – and DR. M (1990), inspired by the "Dr. Mabuse" series of crime thrillers begun by the famously monocled Austrian auteur and continued by other hands. For the record, I purposely watched the latter a day prior to this one (see my review elsewhere).
To get back to M. LE MAUDIT, the film was included among the bountiful extras on Criterion 2-Disc Set of the Lang original (which Joseph Losey had already remade in Hollywood in 1951) – but, being overly familiar with it (it is in my all-time Top 10, after all!), I did not feel the urge to go through the entire package at this stage. By the way, the Chabrol effort was part of a series on French TV in which famous directors remade their favorite movies as a short; it would be interesting to know who else was involved and which titles they selected
As for M. LE MAUDIT, I would say that someone familiar with Lang's film is liable to derive the utmost pleasure from it – not only to understand the plot fully (even if this has obviously been greatly streamlined) but to also identify the outright hommages. As such, it makes for a nice enough companion piece – the mere fact that it contrives to bring out the essence of a nearly two-hour movie in 10 minutes flat requires a certain skill of its own – but, of course, one could not sensibly compare it to either the 1931 or 1951 versions (nor, for that matter, with Chabrol's methodical approach to film-making amply exhibited in his features).
Incidentally, on the disc there is an accompanying interview to the short in which Chabrol amplifies upon Lang's unique qualities (his exacting pictorial style above all) and seems to be especially proud of having conceived a typically Langian shot for it which was actually not in the original!