Claude Chabrol

French director Claude Chabrol 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. Chabrol was there at the very beginning of the French New Wave, first as a critic for Cahiers du Cinema and then as a director of his very first film Le Beau Serge (1958). Some critics feel that Le Beau Serge may have even been the very first New Wave film since it preceded Truffaut’s the 400 Blows (1959) by just a few months. The most prolific and mainstream of the major New Wave directors, Chabrol would average almost one film a year from 1958 until his death. Even though in the beginning of Chabrol’s career he was routinely linked with French New Wave filmmakers like Truffaut and Godard, his style and approach to filmmaking didn’t at all resemble their spontaneous and kinetic approach to New Wave aesthetics. And throughout the years when the French New Wave slowly faded into history Chabrol still continued working and ultimately broke free from his original roots, creating an authentic style and auteur which would forever stand as his own. 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; all which featured his then-wife, Stéphane Audran. His masterpiece Le Boucher tells the simple story of a women who becomes a falling victim to an unknown murderer. There is no great mystery about the identity of the killer and instead what Chabrol does is bring the audience closer in getting to know a monster. His other masterpiece is a much later film La Cérémonie (1995), which tells the story of a shy maid working for an upper-class bourgeois family, and finds a friend in an energetic and uncompromising postmaster who encourages her to stand up against her bourgeois employers. While most psychological thrillers focus more on thrills, twists and shocking surprises, I find Chabrol’s to be more like a psychological character study into the dark, macabre sides of human behavior. Unlike previous masters of the thriller genre like Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzet, Chabol instead went for mood and tone, rather than plot or suspense. You get the notion that he used the camera less to tell a suspensful story but rather to be a curious instinctual eye that would observe how and why normal people end up committing such heinous acts such as murder or revenge.

Claude Chabrol
Claude Chabrol Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Claude Chabrol

Le Boucher (1970)

She 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, […]