11 February 2012 | robert-temple-1
Many hues of betrayal and deception
This is a typical Claude Chabrol study of the intricacies of human deception, betrayal, failures of self and of others. It weaves a wide web of intrigue, and who is the murderer is a question which almost drowns in the mire of human weaknesses which Chabrol's relentless scalpel peels away, layer by layer, in his surgical manner. The film, set on the coast of Britanny, is brilliantly directed, as usual. And the actors in this ensemble film are all superb, also as usual. Probably the outstanding performance is by Jacques Gamblin as the limping artist suffering from a prolonged case of painter's block. His wife is sturdy Sandrine Bonnaire, a district nurse. Her performance is excellent, as usual, but the makeup person overdid her eyebrows far too much! Ever since his serious accident some years before, he has experienced a collapse of morale, and she keeps him going and also brings home the bacon. Meanwhile, she is flirty with an odious, arrogant man who is a visitor to their town, with whom she then commences an affair. Where would a Chabrol film be without an affair? Who killed the young girl? Who is sleeping with whom? Who has the hard heart of a killer and who merely seems to? Will the Gamblin and Bonnaire marriage crack up, or will it survive? Chabrol has his usual fun mystifying us, perplexing us, teasing us, depressing us, and putting us in our place. His main purpose often seems to be to prove to us, with almost mathematical precision, that we are all in the grip of an incomprehensible Fate, that there is murder around every corner or behind every bush, that no alliance or marriage is safe, that betrayal lurks in every heart, that we all have terrible secrets (and if we don't, what's wrong with us?) which will devour us from within, and that every situation is so complex we need to be able to solve partial differential equations for non-linearities even to begin to figure out anything at all. And even then we will still be lost and wandering in a maze of extra dimensions! The amazing Jacques Gamblin of this film appears in Chabrol's last film before his death in 2010, INSPECTOR BELLAMY (2009, see my review), where he plays three characters at once. But Gamblin's performance here is even better than those.