Claude Chabrol might be overlooked when an international cinema teacher lists out the French New Wave directors. But Chabrol made over 50 feature films after his first release in 1958. He was directing until his death in 2010 at age 80. He outlasted the French New Wave period. He was art movement all to himself. He wasn’t nearly as arty and obtuse as his peers, but he had his own style. He could make an audience think they’re watching a romantic or light comedy only to expose quite creepy elements. Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol features a quartet of devious mysteries with sinister edges. The films were made at the turn of the Century and feature a director who wasn’t make safe films that coast on his legacy.
The Swindle (1997 – 104 minutes) starts out with the feel of a comedy. Elizabeth (Heaven’s Gate‘s Isabelle Huppert) is hanging around a casino flirting with the guys up for a convention. After he gets a hot streak at the roulette table, she propositions him for a trip up to his hotel room. He takes her up on the offer although he passes out on the bed before any frisky business. Turns out she’s slipped him a mickey and her partner Victor (La Cage Aux Folles‘s Michel Serrault) drops by the room. The don’t steal everything the guys has in his wallet. It seems like they leave just enough cash so the guy won’t complain or hunt her down. This would be cute except their big gig involves Elizabeth hooking up with a guy who acts as a courier for mobster money. They plot a ways to intercept one of his runs except things go wrong and the mobsters come after them. Huppert and Serrault are perfect in their scheming ways even when they get completely over their head. Chabrol handles the tone so even when things get rough for the con job couple, it doesn’t feel like a completely different movie.
The Color of Lies (1999 – 111 minutes) takes us to the coastal beauty of Brittany. This is where Rene Sterne (Safe Conduct‘s Jacques Gamblin) has gone to get his vision back as an artist. His wife is a medical professional which is how they can afford a house on the beach. Since his art isn’t selling, he teaches classes to the local kids. This is where the trouble begins as one of his students is murdered after leaving his studio. Rene is a prime suspect and the local police chief Frédérique Lesage (Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train‘s Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) won’t back down. There are plenty of other characters of a suspicious nature including Germain-Roland Desmot (Mr. Bean’s Holiday‘s Antoine de Caunes), a writer who wants to dabble in stolen antiques from a handyman. Desmot wants to have an affair with Rene’s wife and she’s tempted. This not a straightforward murder mystery. The story tangles us things so that we’re not sure if Rene is trying to prove his innocence or get away with a horrific crime. Chabrol doesn’t let us get completely lost in the quirkiness of the character since he pulls us back with reminders that one of them is a monster.
Nightcap (2000 – 99 minutes) will keep you up after your bedtime ingesting all that goes down. Jeanne Pollet (The Most Assassinated Woman in the World‘s Anna Mouglailis) has always wondered where her piano playing talents come from since neither her mother or departed father were musicians. While having lunch with her mom and friends she gets told the humorous story of how after she was born, a nurse screwed up and showed her to famous concert pianist Andre Polonski (My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days‘ Jacques Dutronc) as his child. The hospital realized the mistake since Polonski’s wife gave birth to a son. This leads to Pollet visiting the pianist’s house to tell him the story and show off her skills at the keyboard. The famous pianist is thrilled to meet her since his own son has no musical talent and very little ambition. Then things get awkward. Pollet’s wife that gave birth has died and he’s remarried to Marie-Claire (Isabelle Huppert). In fact, he had originally married her before bolting to be with his dead wife. After her death, they reunited. Marie-Claire is extremely wealthy thanks to her family’s chocolate company. At night she gives everyone a nightcap of her famous hot chocolate. This gets Pollet suspicious that Marie-Claire is poisoning the family. Chabrol merges a film about a girl trying to infiltrate a famous family with a potential homicidal mother. Huppert shines in the role where she is either misunderstood or a sociopath.
The Flower of Evil (2003 – 104 minutes) wraps up the boxset by stripping down the perfect upper-class family in the Bordeaux reason. Gerard (The School of Flesh‘s Bernard Le Coq) who runs a successful business, enjoys a drink and fools around on his second wife Anne (Day For Night‘s Nathalie Baye). She’s in the middle of a race for a city council position. He does take care of his elderly Aunt Line (Mr. Arkadin‘s Suzanne Flon). Things seem to be great when his son Francois (The Piano Teacher‘s Benoit Magimel) returns after years in America. Francois gets along with Michele (Paradise Beach‘s Melanie Doutey), Anne’s daughter from her previous marriage. This seems to be a dream existence. Except there’s a lot of dark secrets that quickly get exposed when a piece of mudslinging political flier comes out expose both Anne and Gerard’s family secrets. Included on a list of muck is that family members cooperated with the Germans during France’s World War II occupation and a few suspicious murders that were swept under the carpet because the family was so powerful. Chabrol treats us to what seems like an awkward love story when Francois and Michele become lovers. They’re sort of related, but they aren’t really brother and sister. But don’t worry because Chabrol finds a way to extra creep out the film when someone puts the moves on Michele. We learn more disturbing family facts from Aunt Line when a fresh crime is being covered up.
Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol shows the French director was making nimble cinematic mysteries even late into his career. He would take us to the quaint parts of the country with the most noble of characters, but wouldn’t produce cute movies. Between this boxset and last February’s Lies & Deceit – Five Films by Claude Chabrol, we’ve received a retrospective of his later years that show the director shouldn’t be overlooked in the arthouse. This is the perfect way to discover Chabrol and make up for your International Cinema teacher skipping his filmography.
The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. The Swindle, Nightcap and The Flower of Evil are new 4K restorations. They all allow you to enjoy the scenic elements of the French locations until you get sucked into the nastiness hidden beneath. The audio is lossless PCM stereo of the original French mix. Nightcap and The Flower of Evil also have DTS-HD 5.1 mix to bring the disturbing revelations to the whole room. The movies are subtitled in English.
80-page Collector’s Booklet features essays by Sean Hogan, Brad Stevens, Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and Pamela Hutchinson
DISC ONE – THE SWINDLE
Audio commentary by critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan has them explain that the film was celebrated for being the director’s 50th film at age 67. They discuss how Chabrol was still making films at the rate of a younger filmmaker.
Chabrol’s Soap Bubble (14:36) is a visual essay by scholar Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze. Chabrol described the film as a “Soap Bubble.” She talks about the Hitchcock elements in the film. She links the villain here to one of Chabrol’s Bond spoofs made when the director was a gun for hire.
Film as a Family Affair (38:11) is a recent interview with Cécile Maistre-Chabrol. She points out how Chabrol directed without laying out the plans for the day which drove her nuts since she was the assistant director. She is Claude’s stepdaughter. Her mother was an actress that also worked as the script supervisor for Claude. Cécile said Claude was happy one the set. She goes into his directing style.
Behind the scenes (8:22) has a Chabrol talk about the film. Hubert also talks about what went into her character in this vintage piece.
Interview with Isabelle Huppert (25:38) allows the actress to talk about her time with Chabrol. She talks about how her and the director have different memories of the first time they met.
Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (2:28) talks about how the film was the 50th made by Chabrol. He points out how this is a movie that keeps the audience guessing about the relationship between the two main characters. The film didn’t do well at the box office which is a shame.
Select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol (24:40) has the director in the sound studio talking about clips from the film. He did film the dance sequence with music playing at the time. He goes into how he visually creates the relationship between the characters.
Trailer (1:45) has Isabella Huppert proposition a guy and roll him in a hotel room. This is not a romance.
Image gallery has six color promotional photos.
DISC TWO – THE COLOR OF LIES
New commentary by critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan
Nothing Is Sacred (13:57) is a visual essay by film critic Scout Tafoya. He focuses on the film’s theme of legacy. Chabrol was 70 when the film came out and his own cinematic legacy was being debated.
Behind the scenes (25:47) shows how Chabrol and his crew went down to the seaside to make the film. This is more of a traditional behind the scenes special.
Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (2:33) links this film with two others in the boxset as the Torment of Doubt series. He goes into the murder mystery elements.
Select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol (20:08) has him go into how he sets up the banal and digs deep into the scene. He gets into how to make your character seem like they want to flirt and hold back.
Trailer (1:14) sets up the killer is on the loose in the town.
Image gallery has six press photos and two posters.
DISC THREE – NIGHTCAP
New commentary by film critic Justine Smith
When I Pervert Good… (11:15) is a visual essay by film critic Scout Tafoya. He goes into how Chabrol in his last decade made movies as part of a family affair. He talks about how Chabrol realized he needed to bring more of his world into his films. There’s a bit of background in Chabrol’s approach to movie using Fritz Lang’s attitude.
“Heroine Chabrolienne” (7:06) is a vintage interview with Isabelle Huppert. She goes into what Chabrol said about her character when he gave her the script. She swear Chabrol is not a narcissist.
Interview with Jacques Dutronc (32:02) has the star talk about being a musician making a film with Chabrol. He sits at a piano with a huge cigar. He describes acting with Chabrol who doesn’t give much instruction since he casts actors who can easily inhabit the role.
Behind the scenes (26:05) has Chabrol smoking his pipe on the set and talking to his script supervising wife.
Screen test for Anna Mouglalis (10:33) has the actress landing the part.
Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (3:11) goes into how the film seems like a romantic comedy and then gets sinister. Nothing is innocent in this movie.
Select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol (43:48) has him break down a few scenes. He mentions he hired a German actress to tell the tale of the baby switch because an actor with an accent causes people to pay attention.
Trailer (1:39) starts with the wedding and leads to the web of mystery.
Image gallery has color press photos, posters and DVD covers.
DISC FOUR – THE FLOWER OF EVIL
Audio commentary by film critic Farran Smith Nehme
Behind the Masks (14:30) is a visual essay by Agnes Poirier. She talks about how Chabrol’s films owe a lot to French literature. She goes into his cinematic career.
Behind the scenes (25:36) has Chabrol set up his shots on the locations. He talks about how he likes to make things happen during production and not merely shoot the script and storyboards.
Interview with co-writer Catherine Eliacheff (24:47) has her discuss working on a few scripts with Chabrol including La Cérémonie.
Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (3:31) relates the film back to the story of Lizzie Borden.
Select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol (49:29) gets into how he viewed his characters as beasts. He breaks down his visual motivation for scenes.
Trailer (2:14) shows this won’t be a feel-good visit to the French countryside.
Image gallery has posters for the film.
Arrow Video presents Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol. Directed by Claude Chabrol. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc, Nathalie Baye, Suzanne Flon, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin and Michel Serrault. Boxset Contents: 4 films on 4 Blu-ray discs. Released: April 26, 2022.
Tags: Arrow Video, Claude Chabrol, French New Wave, Isabella Huppert