At the end of Bellamy a quote from the British poet W.H. Auden was on the screen: "There is always another story, there is more than the eye can grasp." Chabrol, like the feline paunchy ofAlice in Wonderland, throwing sibylline riddles before disappearing, had thus delivered the keys of his art in the last shot of his last film. It was enough to decipher the meaning. Traversée des appearances, Chabrol's cinema would be a world of signs, where history can be understood only if one reveals, in fine, the underpinnings, "backwards " Balzac would say, to whom he has often been compared, while affixing him, by the way, the same attributes. He is said to be a "realist" filmmaker, pinpointing the turpitude of the provincial petty bourgeoisie – an environment he knows well since it came out of it – hypocrisy, lies, cynicism, adultery, vileness, manipulation, stupidity. also said bulimic author – sixty films for the cinema and twenty for television – great architect of a total work, recomposing all strata of society, with a slew of poisonous jewelry, including his thrillers of the 70s with his magnetic muse, Stéphane Audran, control pieces and some turnips. Major films and other minors, in the musical sense of the term, small dissonances necessary for the harmony of "everything", including Chabrol, as the author of the human comedy, compensate for certain writing facilities by its innate ease and its impressive prolixity. So much for the clichés, to which we can add his bonhomie epicurean, lover of great wines, refined dishes and chamber jokes.

Lashing. The cliché being what it is – not a lie but a fixed image, that is to say, who does not "work" -, oddly enough, we are grateful for the portrait which Cécile Maistre, his adopted daughter, devotes to him of not having tried to defeat them at all costs, to let artificially hover the shadow of a pseudo-crack, which would plummet the image of impertinent, easy-going and slightly anarous enjoyer. The doc sticks to the biography, soberly ginned – bourgeois milieu, compulsive cinema, love of books, Flaubert and Simenon, whose motto he shares: "To understand and not to judge", friends of Notebooks and the New Wave (he made the first feature film, the Beau Serge), his irreverent screenwriter Paul Gégauff, his women and his films, many extracts of which intertwine an interlacing of archives and testimonies, Isabelle Huppert, among others. There is no shameful family secret, so if there is a cursed part, it is in the work that it comes out. In particular ceremony (1995) the butcher (1971) and Just before the night (1971), three masterpieces of implacable darkness, broadcast on Arte in the wake.

Relieved of the scathing irony that often characterizes him, it is an almost gentle look of entomologist he poses above all. In the first, inspired by a famous event of the 30s, the case Papin, Chabrol reverses the logic that often innervates his films – vitriolic painting of a provincial society locked by a dirty little secret – to pass on the sieve of a hallucinated class struggle, in which the murderous madness of two "proletarians" (Huppert as an intrusive postmaster and Bonnaire as an illiterate servant) takes the place of a Marxist breviary.

in the movie The Boucher with Jean Yanne and Stéphane Audran. PHOTO PANOCEANIC FILMS

Jewels of the so-called pompidolienne period and of the cycle of the "Hélène" – the chabrolian heroines of the time, camped by Stéphane Audran, is named all Hélène -, the butcher and Just before the night reveal, at the heart of the painting of manners inserted in the format of the thriller, drawing as much at Hitchcock as at Lang, the taste of Chabrol for a certain abstraction, infusing these films with fantastic flashes. The woman is the mirror of the madness of a man falling apart – Jean Yanne as a serial killer distraught (the butcher), Michel Bouquet as a dostoevskian assassin, gnawed by guilt (Just before the night). Audran, whose face Chabrol has ceased to treat as a screen, an opaque and indecipherable surface, was the perfect medium of a cinema that knew how to deviate from reality at times to infuse an almost supernatural dimension. His hypnotic wandering at the end ofButcher, like a vacancy worried, joins the haunting of the Madeleine Vertigo.

Unreal. Similarly, Just before the night – twin movie of the unfaithful woman, where the murderous husband does not seek to conceal his crime, but on the contrary to reveal it to expiate his faults, in vain – suggests by the staging that everything could be only the product of the tortured imagination of his hero, guilt even seeming to precede the crime. Thus this first shot, on a black background, of a profile Bouquet, which succeeds an identical plan with, in depth of field, his naked mistress whom he is about to strangle. As if the crime only came to fulfill and confirm a metaphysical fault, which exceeds it.

The faces of profile, figure of style borrowed from a scene of No spring for Marnie by Hitchcock, come back nagging throughout the film, inducing the effect of a truncated reality, retracted (since we see only half), even evanescent and unreal. Thus the very beautiful scene where Bouquet confesses his crime to his friend (François Périer), the husband of his murdered mistress, who absolves him by answering him with a strange sweetness: "We're not guilty of what's going on in a nightmare," while their spectral silhouettes fade like shadows in the night …

Nathalie Dray

Chabrol cycle on Arte Ceremony and the documentary chabrol, the contrarian Sunday. The butcher μ and Just before the night on Monday.

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