Thursday, June 7, 2007

Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)

Directed by Claude Chabrol. Starring Stephane Audran, Clothilde Joano, Bernadette Lafont, and Lucille Saint-Simon.

Chabrol was one of the founding members of the French New Wave, and this film was a key early work in the movement. It uses many of the New Wave's ideals- location shooting, stylistic experimentation, non-literary inspiration- to tell the story of four girls working in a Paris department store. As we get to know the characters, their lives together and individually form the various plot strands of the film- Jane's free-and-easy lifestyle, Rita's impending marriage, Ginette's secret life as a singer in a music hall, and Jacqueline's budding relationship with a man on a motorcycle. Near the end of the film, the story takes a turn into the romantic and then the macabre, but these don't feel like plot twists because Chabrol has set them up through his characters' behavior, and the action unfolds with an inspired combination of unpredictability and inevitability. In the final sequence, Chabrol takes the film to another level entirely, a more philosophical one, and though he doesn't (and shouldn't) make clear the meaning of the sequence, it somehow makes perfect sense, and caps the film beautifully.

See also: Review at

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