Le Boucher (1970)

Boucher 1She is a strong and sophisticated school mistress from Paris, he is a unusured small town butcher, both of their everyday lives obscure great loneliness, and their sexual tension is peculiarly skewed. They should never have met each other, and yet fate has brought together these two completely different individuals. When they do start to spend time together, their relationship seems uneventful and ordinary, but it sets terrible repressed emotions at work and it is clear by the end of the film that this friendship will set loose violent impulses from the butcher and the school mistress will be forever traumatized. Claude Chabrol's Le Boucher is one of the most frightening and humanely tragic thrillers ever made. The story opens in a small French village of Tremolat, Peridogrd, as the story reveals a series of women who are falling victim to an unknown murderer. There is no great mystery about the identity of the killer; it must be the butcher, because no other plausible suspects are brought onscreen. We know it, the butcher knows it, and at some point, the school mistress, certainly knows it. Chabrol treats his audiences intelligently and doesn't rely on cheap horror gimmicks or unnecessarily plot twists. Chabrol instead brings the audience closer in getting to know a monster, and we end up coming away looking at him less as a monster and more as a sad and tragic victim. Surely the horrors that he had experienced in the Algerian and Indochina war clearly traumatized him, and the school mistress seems slightly fascinated by the mysterious danger that the butcher embodies.

French director Claude Chabrol was like New Wavers Godard and Truffaut, a movie critic writing for the magazine 'Cahiers du Cinema,' and was one of the voices of the European auteur movement. He has outlasted many of his contemporaries making more than 50 films most of them psychological thrillers, and many looked at as some of the greatest thrillers since the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Le Boucher builds to a highly emotional climax that is at the same time absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking. Some come away believing that the butcher is driven to kill because the school teacher remains distant and unavailable, and that if she'd only slept with the butcher his savage and animalistic impulses would have been diverted. "I would’ve liked...to take you in my arms. I would’ve liked to be with you always. To love you...to protect you...I would’ve wanted you to need me...I’ve seen so much blood flowing...When you were there, there was no more blood...I didn’t think about blood anymore. It’s so far...its’ so far..."

 

PLOT/NOTES

The film opens in a small French town in Tremolat, Perigord. In the early mornings the town’s church bells are ringing, a man is sweeping the street, and children are rushing out to set up a wedding later that afternoon.  During the wedding ceremony Hélène (Stéphane Audran) is a confident, slightly naive young headmistress who is adored by her pupils at the school where she works and lives. She meets the local butcher, Popaul (Jean Yanne), at the wedding ceremony of her friend and follow co-worker Leon, who is getting married. During the wedding ceremony Helene and Popaul begin a friendly chitchat as Popaul politely carves a roast for Helene saying, "Not like in the army...even when the meat was good, and it wasn't often...it tastes like shoe leather." A student asks Helene for a sip of champagne, and she lets him. The two decide to have a dance together with Popaul saying, "I haven't danced much in 15 years."

When the wedding ends Popaul decides to walk Helene home, as there is a remarkable long tracking sequence which follows the two character’s walking through the entire village, past men in cafes, and schoolboys playing. Suddenly Helene takes out a cigarette and lights up. “You smoke in the streets?" Popaul asks. "It’s rare for a women to smoke in the streets.” Helene says, “It’s more simple than smoking in a house.” Popaul brings up the army again saying, “I was 15 years in the army. So, in the army there’s two things you like because you don’t have them. Its logic and freedom.” Helene tells Popaul how she’s been a headmistress for 3 years, while the two finally arrive at her home which is right above the school that she works at. Popaul politely tells Helene that since he is the local butcher he can bring her meat delicacies.  "A dream to have a butcher select their meat for them," Helena says. She asks him how he started in to the butcher trade and he tells her his father got him into it, and when called for the Army he was the butcher in Algeria, and Indo-China.

During the next school day Helene congratulates the groom Leon, as one of the students tells her that his father told him a postman found a dead woman in the woods that morning. During Helena’s class and her discussing the famous French writer Balzac, Popaul appears peeping in the classroom window (which has a creepy foreshadowing to later in the film.) She politely invites him in the classroom while her students laugh. He politely delivered a lamb leg for Helene. "That’s where I sat,” Popaul says pointing to a classroom seat. “Our teacher wasn’t as nice as you...old hag. Her name was Cowden...with a cow. A real bitch she was.” Helene tells her class that they mustn’t hear anymore and they are dismissed. Helene tells Popaul to wait for her because she is going to head to the bakery. Helene says to Poaul, “Say Paul if you’re not afraid, come and share the lamb with me tonight.” Popaul is shocked by her proposal but he greatly accepts.

Helena walks into the bakery and finds that the French police are in the street doing an investigation because a crime at Saint Albert has been committed where they found a woman dead with an inflicted knife wound.

That evening at Helene's home, Popaul arrives a tad earlier later than expected but he doesn’t mind watching Helene finish correcting her student’s papers. After she’s finished she decides to put in the lamb, and then invites Popaul out to the movies. He says, “Yes, but not war movies, they’re offensive. I was in the war for 15 years. You have to be a dupe if you don’t see it’s a distraction. I’ve seen a thing or two. And they weren’t pretty to see. Purely rotten.” She promises they will see a comedy. “Have you seen there has been cops here all day?” Popaul asks Helene. “A girl’s been murdered behind Saint Albert. They looked everywhere. They found no trace.” Helene isn’t really listening and asks him to help her with the lamb that she is cooking.

The next morning Helene arrives to the butcher’s saying hi to Popaul and several of the other employees. While she is there to order a small scallop, the townspeople are watching the French police driving through town. The authorities have apparently found a clue in the recent murders as Helene says, “A crime is awful. Think of the poor girl.” Popaul says, “I’ve seen a corpse or two, their heads in the wind. Cut in half, mouths open. I’ve seen 3 or 4 piled together. Kids with their eyes punctured Indo-Chinese as old as Madame Tirrant. Completely torn to bits. I’ve seen pals of mine rotting in the sun. Being eaten by maggots.” One of the employees says, “Yes, war is a horrible thing. That’s a fact, but a murder like this it’s barbaric.” Popaul says, “We counted corpses by the truck loads...so...I’m rambling.”

Helene invites Popaul to come join her and her class mushrooming later that afternoon and he accepts. Later that day while Helene is with her students Popaul arrives with picked mushrooms for the class. Popaul takes a rest in the woods and Helene asks him if he thinks he can rest already and Popaul says, “No, but I like to watch you like this...with the children.” While the children go off and play Helene takes a seat next to Popaul and he asks Helene her surname, and then more personal questions:

“May...I ask another question. It’s less discreet. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want. Why don’t you have a ...lover?”

“Maybe I don’t want one.”

“That’s what I’m asking. Why don’t you want one?”

“Because I had a big love affair...Over ten years ago. I was very much in love with a boy who made me happy whom I liked a lot. It went on for months. One day he had enough so he left. So it left me. Left me lovesick. And it took me a long time to recover. That’s why I came here to teach. Now I’m very happy.”

“I’m not saying you’re not happy but...It’s unusual.”

“It’s not unusual. I love these children like they’re my own.”

“I’m not convinced.”

“But I see all kinds of reasons...I find it to be a miracle that people can meet...love each other...make love. But I don’t want to take another risk.”

“I know it’s not always fabulous. But, never making love can make you insane.”

“But...also, doing it, can make you crazy.”

“But shit, if I kissed you now; what would you say?”

“I’d say nothing, but please don’t.”

Since its Popaul’s birthday Helene gives him a gift with is a distinctive looking cigarette lighter.

During a class field trip to the nearby Lascaux caves and of their wall paintings, Helene talks of the Cro-Magnon Man. “His instincts and intelligence were human,” she tells her students. One of the students asks her, “What would he do?” She replies, “Maybe he would adapt and live among us.”

Helene and her students rest on a ledge to eat their lunches, and suddenly a drop of blood falls on of the student's bread. It is the blood of the latest victim, as Helene runs up and realizes the body is of the bride who was married in the opening scene. As she discovers the body, Helene also finds the distinctive cigarette lighter that she had earlier given Popaul as a birthday present. She pockets the lighter and that evening at her home she puts in a drawer, and when questioned by police she tells them she found no clues. That morning at school a police detective returns to ask the students if they seen anything strange when at the Lascaux caves.

Later that evening Popaul arrives to Helene’s home with a jar of cherries marinated in brandy, as she invites him up. The tension is high as you can clearly see that Helene is confused by her emotions, questioning that she might be sitting next to a killer. “Best ones I’ve ever had,” she says even before she tastes the cherries Popaul brought over. While Popaul asks her how shocked and upset she looks she says, “If only you’d seen how she was. I thought of all those corpses you’ve talked about.” While the two of them are sitting at the table eating the cherries she starts to cry, and he reassures her that she shouldn’t think about it, to stop crying and that he will paint the room for her. Suddenly when she pulls out her cigarette she asks for a light and he pulls out the distinctive cigarette lighter she gave him. Shocked she says, “It’s my lighter?!” Popaul says, “Of course it is. Works well, too.” A huge relief overwhelms Helene and she starts to laugh asking him to stay.

After Leon’s wife’s funeral the police inspector arrives and let’s Helene know that they have no leads, and the murderer uses a flick-knife. After class one of Helene’s students stays after to finish homework while Popaul arrives to paint the room like he promised. While painting the ceiling Popaul check’s Helene’s drawer for rags and comes to find the distinctive cigarette lighter she found at the murder site, and he decides to pocket it, knowing she knows. When Popaul is finished painting Helene arrives back and before he leaves for the night she tells Popaul another woman was found murdered, this time in Bergerac. Popaul says, “I’m not surprised. There’s no reason it should stop. Why should it stop suddenly?” When Helene opens the drawer and makes the discovery that the cigarette lighter is no longer in the drawer she asks the student if he took anything from the drawer and the student tells her that Popaul went through her drawers earlier, which now confirms that Popaul is the killer afterall.

After the student leaves for the night Helene starts to get frightened and remembers that she didn’t lock the back door and shut the windows and quickly runs down the staircase to lock them. Suddenly she hears Popaul call out for her outside, peering at her in the same classroom window as earlier in the film. “Miss Helene...Let me in...I need to talk with you. Please, it’ll take a couple minutes. I beg you.” She says she has a headache and they can talk tomorrow morning. “But it’s important,” he says and Helene ignores his calls and shuts off the lights.

She then realizes there was one entranceway that she didn’t lock and runs back downstairs to lock it, but Popaul has already made his way in, and appears from the shadows. “Miss Helene. It’s me. I put out the light. I came through the work shed. Keep still and listen. I saw you found the lighter. So I understood you knew it was me. When I realized I’d lost it...I tried to buy another one. I spent all day at Perigueux...to find the same one. So you wouldn’t notice. It wasn’t worthwhile since you’d found it. This is what I killed them with." Popaul then flicks out the knife towards Helene. "With this knife. I can’t help it...it befalls me like a nightmare. I can’t breathe, until I’ve done it. Until I buried my knife.” Helene says, “I understand. You can rely on me Paul.” Popaul tells her not to talk saying, “Now I won’t dare to be with you like before. I’m dreadfully embarrassed. I couldn’t bear to see you, you understand. I know I horrify you. And I can’t stand that. I can’t stand it...”

Helene closes her eyes ultimately waiting for him to kill her, and when she opens her eyes she sees that Popaul has stabbed himself. “Miss Helene...Help me...” She tells him to hold still and she slowly pulls the blade out from his chest as he gently rests his head on her shoulder. She then carries Popaul outside into her vehicle and drives onto the road towards the nearest hospital. While driving Popaul is bleeding to death as he says to Helene: “Hurry...Hurry up, my blood is leaving me...its better if I speak now. I spent nights thinking of you...You don’t know."

Boucher 2Helene tells Popaul that it is better if he doesn't speak, but he must reveal his feelings towards her: "I’ve spent nights in front of the school...looking at your window and at you...when I saw you, when I saw your eyes...I would forget everything. I didn’t know who I was. I only lived for you. I would’ve liked...to take you in my arms. I would’ve liked to be with you always. To love you...to protect you...I would’ve wanted you to need me...I wanted to take you on a deserted island. It’s so far...its’ so far...I have a lot of blood...My blood doesn’t stop flowing. I know about blood. I’ve seen so much blood flowing...When you were there. There was no more blood. I didn’t think about blood anymore. Once, when I was little, I fainted when I saw blood. I noticed the smell of blood...they all smell the same, that of animals and that of men. Some is more red than others, but all have exactly the same smell...It’s so far...”

When they finally arrive the doctors put him on a stretcher and roll him in as Helene is by Popaul’s side. “Miss Helene...Kiss me...” She gives Popaul a tender kiss before doctors take him into the elevator. Suddenly a doctor comes down to inform Helene that Popaul died right when the elevator stopped. She is told to head home and get rest and that there will be paperwork to fill out the next day.

Before heading home Helene drives out to the lake and stares out at the sea, confused at her emotions and forever traumatized by the events.

 

ANALYZE

Chabrol plays on conventionality, as it is represented in film. The distinctions between murderer and victim are at times blurred. The ideal small community that Chabrol establishes seems to mirror so many others and the characters he uses represent the eroding authenticity that is characteristic in films which seek to capture an “old world feel.” Popaul comes across as an innocent, laid-back, simple butcher, who mentions his experiences in Algeria and Indochina repeatedly. Hélène is admired in the community for her selfless dedication to children — she forgoes a personal life for servitude. Chabrol hints that these characters are not as they seem. Repression and representation seem to be themes Chabrol works with in the film. In confronting repression and representation as Chabrol does, a character, who seems as altruistic as Hélène, takes on a new connotation. Little does Hélène realise that she is driving Popaul to these acts, leaving him stranded with his demons and self-disgust.

Even before he met Hélène, Popaul was tortured. Towards the end of the film, he delivers a soliloquy that allows the viewer to sympathize with him. This is a man who has seen nothing but blood, who cannot get beyond it and who is destroyed by the possibility that humankind is little more than blood. Popaul’s rejection by Hélène is what drives him to murder and we see by the end of the film that Hélène is a flawed character. The seemingly ideal schoolteacher indirectly affects the perfect, small town. The beginning of the film frames the town enjoying the wedding. The last shots of Hélène in the village are dramatically different. This progression from light-heart to devastation is very subtly made but then, as in many of Chabrol’s thrillers, the darker side of human nature begins to intrude gradually before making a spectacular and gripping entrance in the last twenty or so minutes of the film.

The repression of emotion in Hélène and impulsive anger caused by rejection in Popaul is important in the film, unlike other crime films. The murders or the hope that Popaul will be caught are not central to it. This reference to man's antecedents establishes an important theme in the film: the residual atavistic impulses in 20th-century man. With Popaul, Chabrol shows us a character who is natural in the purest meaning of the word. Popaul wants to love and to be loved but experience has left him scarred; Helene’s rejection seems to be the thing that pushes him over the edge. Popaul’s anger is animalistic but it’s clear it doesn’t define him in the same way it would a traditional villain in a film. By the end of the film plot themes have not been resolved. Nor is the plot resolved with an action we have been particularly guided to consider. The murderous but sympathetic butcher quite suddenly commits suicide and as a result the schoolteacher feels guilt at not having given herself to him; we share this guilt and are implicated in his suicide, because Chabrol had ultimately tipped the balance against our wanting the schoolteacher to let the butcher into her house at the crucial moment when he most needed human sustenance.

-Wikipedia

French director Claude Chabrol was a member of the French New Wave group of filmmakers who first came to prominence at the end of the 1950s and was one of the voices of the European auteur movement. Like his colleagues and contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, Chabrol was a critic for the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma before beginning his career as a film maker, ultimately making more than 50 films most of them psychological thrillers.

Chabrol's career began with Le Beau Serge in 1958, inspired by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Thrillers became something of a trademark for Chabrol, with an approach characterized by a distanced objectivity. This is especially apparent in Les Biches in 1968, La Femme Infidèle in 1969 and Le Boucher in 1970 which all featured his then-wife, Stéphane Audran. His greatest films beside Le Boucher was La cérémonie, which told the story of a shy maid working for the upper-class family Lelievre, who hides her illiteracy under the cloak of a perfect household and obedience. She finds a friend in the energetic and uncompromising postmaster Jeanne, who encourages her to stand up against her bourgeois employers. The Unfaithful Wife is a story about a husband who believes his wife his cheating and so hires a P.D. in order to prove himself right. Once he knows the lover is a famous writer he drives to his apartment, confronts him, and then kills him cold-bloodedly. One of my personal favorites of Chabrol's is a film titled This Man Must die, which tells the story of a single father obsessed with murdering the hit&run driver who killed his only child.

And yet Le Boucher is looked at as Chabrol's most brilliant and effective film. Throughout Le Boucher there is so much subtly that goes unsaid between its two characters Miss Helene and Popaul, and much of the drama and tension is hinted at or guessed upon. The film has us always thinking what the character's are thinking, and the slight hints of sexual tension, creates an unrelenting amount of anxiousness and dread throughout the film.

There is no great mystery about the identity of the killer; it must be Popaul the butcher, because no other plausible suspects are brought onscreen. We know it, the butcher knows it, and at some point, Miss Helene, the school mistress, certainly knows it. But when is the exact moment that Helene figures it out? Was it when she found the authentic cigarette lighter near a victim's body, (which is the bride from the beginning of the film) or did she start to suspect much earlier in the story? We follow her response closely, as she swipes the lighter from the murder scene, places it in a drawer, and later lies to the police saying that she found no clues. Does she think that Popaul is the killer, and if so why is she withholding evidence from the police? Does Popaul think she suspects him and if so does he eventually want to kill Helene as well? Soon after, Popaul comes over with a jar of cherries marinated in brandy. What follows is a highly tense scene of them sitting together eating cherries, this time Popaul eyeing her down, as she gazes far away in thought and fear, describing the cherries as the best she's ever had even before she has eaten one. She starts to cry, clearly traumatized by coming across a dead body, but what exactly is she thinking? Does she believe she is sitting next to a killer? Does he wonder if she knows? Eventually she asks for a light and when he suddenly pulls out the distinctive cigarette lighter she earlier found she is shocked and she says, “It’s my lighter?!” Popaul says, “Of course it is. Works well, too.” A huge relief overwhelms Helene and she starts to laugh asking him to stay and comfort her.

There is obvious sexual tension between Helene and Popaul, who both are clearly thinking about sex, but know not to act upon it. Helene obviously doesn't want to get killed but she enjoys teasingly getting close to Popaul and finds his unusual, mysterious presence that he embodies greatly fascinated and is highly drawn to the danger. Perhaps it was their very first meeting that she sensed the early danger and risks when she is accidentally seated next to him at a fellow teacher's wedding ceremony, and the first thing she watches him do is carve a roast. She fascinatedly follows the movement of the knife, and she seems greatly eager in wanted to eat the piece he gives to her, even before every one else is served. During a class trip to the nearby Lascaux caves and their wall paintings, Helene speaks about the Cro-Magnon Man suggesting that his intelligence and instincts were human, and when one of the students asks her what would he do if he would come back Helena says: "Maybe he would adapt and live among us. Or maybe he would die." Sounds like she is describing Popaul, but it isn't quite clear if she is thinking directly of him, but we know Chabrol obviously is.

In one of the best moments in the film is after the wedding party and director Chabrol gives us an extraordinary long tracking shot that lasts nearly four minutes long, a shot that involves Helene and Popaul walking through the entire village, passing men, women, cafes and children playing. The two character's are loose and relaxed after a night of drinking champagne and Popaul starts to talk about one of his many war stories. There is a lot to take notice throughout this sequence especially the bold polka dot outfit that Helene is wearing which completely stands out among the old-fashioned and more traditional look of the setting of the village they inhabit. Helene is a strong and dominating female character, as she swaggers down the street and nonchalantly pulls out a cigarette, lights it and begins to smoke in the middle of the street, quite similar to a femme fatale. Judging by Popaul's stunned reaction he quickly asks her, “You smoke in the streets? It’s rare for women to smoke in the streets.” Helene is a unique woman who Popaul has never met before, someone who is much different from the women he was raised up knowing throughout the village. Helene is more bold, educated, and worldly, a woman from the city of Paris, and is a completely opposite contrast to the unsecure and conservative Popaul. He is dressed in a much more traditional suit and tie, and has an odd awkward way he carries himself, always looking down at the pavement and unable to give Helene direct eye contact. Popaul is clearly intimidated by Helene and her strong female presence which sends a message of female dominance that stems from such female character's of the French New Wave movement. He scrambles to keep the conversation going between the two of them and when he offers her any of the meat she wants, she reacts to it in a slightly patronizing way. Later, when Popaul visits Helene at her home, Popaul sits on a chair that makes him look much lower than her, similar to one of his students admiring one of his teachers in complete awe. Helene is also a woman who is sexually independent and has worked as a school mistress in the town of Tremolat for three years. She isn't looking to find a male partner or get married any time soon and later in the film explains to Popaul that she once had an unhappy affair, and is happy from now on to do completely without men.

They're several Hitchcockian themes in the film that keep repeating throughout its story. Smoking is one of the major themes that gets brought up again and again, and interestingly enough we never see Popaul smoking unless Helene decides to light up. Another Hitchcockian visual look is of the protoganist that plays Miss Helene. She is played by actress Stéphane Audranis who married the director Claude Chabrol in 1964, after a short marriage to the French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant. Her blond hair, is purposely shown many times from behind, one particular moment the camera actually zooms in, as she presents a look very similar to Hitchcock's actress Tippi Hedren. The way Popaul admires and watches Helene can be a similar parallel to the way director Hitchcock obsessed and molded his particular actresses that he worked with throughout his career. Another theme is Popaul's face admiring Helene, always watching her, most famously his face being seen in the frame of the classroom window. The first time that scene occurs it is looked at as slightly childish and humorous, the second time near the conclusion of the film, it gives off a voyeuristic and disturbing feel. Church bells ringing are another theme that is repeatedly heard throughout the soundtrack of the film, which can look at as a metaphor of time slowly running out between the two fatal characters.

The last theme that is repeatedly brought up throughout the film is the effects of war, as Popaul rambles on about many of his traumatic experiences that he has seen during his 15 years in the French Army. He served in Algiers and Indochina, and he hints of indescribable brutality or horror that he witnessed saying such things like: “I’ve seen a corpse or two, their heads in the wind. Cut in half, mouths open. I’ve seen 3 or 4 piled together. Kids with their eyes punctured Indo-Chinese as old as Madame Tirrant. Completely torn to bits. I’ve seen pals of mine rotting in the sun. Being eaten by maggots.” These war stories that are repeated throughout the story can be viewed as a slight explanation to Popaul's barbaric and evil acts. Clearly the war traumatized him, and if he already was sick and disturbed before enlisting in the military, the war and the horrors that he witnessed probably enhanced them. Popaul is a killer all right, but he can also be looked at as a sad and tragic victim. Besides him being looked at as a victim of war, many critics believe the director personally blames his violent behavior on Helene herself. His crimes probably could have been prevented if Helena didn't remain sexually distant and unavailable. If she'd only have slept with him his savage and animalistic impulses would have been diverted, since the murders only seemed to start when their friendship began. Or did they begin earlier? Critic Roger Ebert suggests that Helene's butchy walk through the village, smoking her cigarette only sealed her fate: "Since (as I believe) she is excited in a perverse, obscure way by the danger he represents, does he sense that? Are his killings in some measure offerings, as a cat will lay a bird at the feet of its owner?"

Boucher 3Le Boucher builds to a highly emotional climax that is at the same time absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking. Popaul's face shows desperate devotion, vulnerability and extreme need, and Helene expresses emotional confusion and alienation. What I find most fascinating about Le Boucher is the unique way Claude Chabrol doesn't persecute or judge the murderer, and instead asks audiences to try and understand him. Not sympathize with him but to understand him, as in the end of the film, the murderer reveals the love and passion he has for Helene, and how he cannot control or escape the murderous compulsions that consume him. I have always believed that in a film it's more interesting to reveal the villain to the audience early on and have the audience try to understand how they work, think, and feel. Most films make the villain's identity (especially in horror films) a mystery until the very end, and throughout the story simply label them as a nameless figure with a hockey mask, but I believe that's a cheap and unintelligent cop-out for a really good story. Some of the best films show the identity of the villain earlier on like in Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs or George Sluizer's The Vanishing, and it's more interesting to learn why the villain is doing these horrible acts then to make them some one-dimensional faceless killer hiding in the dark with a butcher knife. That's why films like Le Boucher, M, The Silence of the Lambs, and Se7en are more fascinating than most thrillers because you get inside the head of the villain, and you try and figure why they do what they do. I truly believe the reason why most films don't want to explore the mind of a killer is because people are simply afraid to explore that dark side of the psyche, and learn the unfortunate truth: That these monsters who commit such unthinkable and heinous crimes are people like us, they are our neighbors, our friends and loved ones, which is why we have created the fantastical supernatural characters such as Dracula, Michael Myers, and Lucifer, because to simply label them as 'monsters' is much more comforting. The brilliance in Le Boucher is its ambiguity, and that so much goes unsaid between the two main character's in the film. They're a romantic love story, without ever being officially romantic. Le Boucher can be looked at as a 'Beauty and the Beast' like horror fable, which tells the tragic story of a woman who learns to look past the ghastly monster and see a tortured soul, while the beast exposes his vulnerability, revealing a human being under what society would view as a psychopathic monster. Even though the two never become intimate, the final moment when Popaul asks Helene to kiss him before he dies, is as sexual or more so than any sex scene presented in a film. When she tenderly kisses him, she finally expresses the love he's always desired but unfortunately never had.

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