Claude Chabrol

Author: Guy Austin

Claude Chabrol's films break down the dubious critical barrier between art cinema and popular cinema. Rejecting the avant-garde and the experimental, Chabrol chooses to work within the confines of established genres. He has in fact filmed farce, melodrama, fantasy, war films, spy films and glossy literary adaptations. Chabrol has excellent new-wave credentials and is in some ways a representative figure for this innovative film movement in French cinema. For the small budget of 32 million old francs, he was able to shoot Le Beau Serge over nine weeks in the winter of 1957/8 and film it in what was essentially his home village. Chabrol has known periods of great success (the launching of the new wave in 1958, the superb Hélène cycle of the late 1960s, including his most famous film Le Boucher for his return to form in the 1990s). He also has had periods of inactivity and failure. His depiction of the middle classes usually concentrates on the family. Le Cri du hibou begins as Masques ends, with a framed image from which the camera slowly tracks back to reveal the presence of a spectator. Given that in Chabrol's cinema women are often lacking in financial or social power, there are limits to the ways in which they can either define themselves or escape their situation. This is spelled out most clearly in Les Bonnes Femmes, where the potential escape routes are sex, marriage into the bourgeoisie, a career, romance or death.

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