Director: Claude Chabrol / Script: C Chabrol & Paul GeGauff / DP: Henri Decae / Editor: Jacques Gaillard / Music: Paul Misraki
Cast: Gerard Blain / Jean-Claude Brialy / Juliette Mayniel / Stephane Audran
When in town, don’t wear brown…
A mere four months on from Le Beau Serge and flush with its success (and cash), Director Claude Chabrol enlisted the help of impish writer GeGauff to collaborate on reinventing an old morality tale; that of how the country mouse is corrupted by his cousin in town…
Keeping the same company of Blain, Brialy and Mayniel from Serge was expedient, but reversing the two male leads was a clever touch. Nearly sixty years-on, much of the mise-en-scéne has dated, but at its core, this is a film about inevitable destiny; about how one cannot escape one’s fate, no matter how hard one tries.
As I watched, I thought of Daedalus and Icarus, and how one cannot fly too close to the sun, no matter the temptation; to survive, you need better wings… Also, of Frankenheimer’s Seconds, reviewed elsewhere on this site; another film in which a leopard fails to change their spots… Paul is blinded to his place in life and succumbs to Charles‘ undeniably bright aura and the unrequited delights of Josephine, only to remember his purpose for being in Paris in the first place: UNIVERSITY.
So he crams, feverishly, doggedly against a constant barrage of noisy parties and interruptions. Fails the exam, obviously. Attempts suicide by Russian Roulette. Fails, even at that. A day later, he’s dead anyway, killed in horseplay by the one bullet in the chamber… Oh, the irony.
Chabrol constructs the end scene with real skill, pulling down the curtain as the doorbell buzzes, just as it has throughout the film; each time heralding some new drama to the flat.
I’m letting you steal it. Go on. I’m turned away and can’t see you take it…