Blu-ray Review: A Woman Kills

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

Not every movie produced makes it to your local cineplex. Many get hung up in post-production when the footage just doesn’t come together to make an entertaining film. There are a few that get picked up by indie film companies and find themselves stuck in the vault for various reasons. Others just can’t find their way out of executive screening rooms as distributors can’t see it being a profitable release. Most filmmakers just give up and move to their next project. Those that succeed in making another movie do their best to avoid dealing with a missing first film. It’s just part of their learning process. French director Jean-Denis Bonan had a long career in movies and TV, but he didn’t forget his first film that he made in 1968. A Woman Kills didn’t find a distributor and stayed hidden until a festival screening of the rough cut in 2010. Over 40 years later, Bonan found an audience and finally completed the film.

Hélène Picard is a prostitute that is found to be a serial killer. She’s put to death in a French prison. Her executioner is Louis Guilbeau (Molière‘s Claude Merlin). Louis is an ex-soldier who is troubled by his time fighting in Algeria. Even though he’s slightly unbalanced, he finds himself involved with Solange, a policewoman (The French Cousins‘ Solange Pradel). The two have a romantic dinner where Louis reveals how you have to be careful to not accidentally revive the condemned. He made sure Picard was good and dead before he left the prison. Her execution hasn’t put an end to things. Turns out that even with Picard gone, victims are turning up around Paris. The witness reports seem to suggest that another female serial killer is loose in the city. A rough sketch looks a bit by Solange. Is the cop really the killer or is she being used as the cover by the killer who previously did this to Picard?

A Woman Kills is not a normal crime genre film. This movie is pure ’60s French revolution cinema. There is a major art film element to the black and white action. This won’t be confused for an Italian Giallo film that was made around this time. Jean-Denis Bonan is going for the New Wave vibe that always reminds you that you’re watching a film. Many of the major scenes you’d get in a Hollywood film are covered by a radio report or the characters just say them. There are great action scenes such as the rooftop chase between the real killer and the cops. He augments his police cast with footage of real cops on the street that were grabbed documentary style. The film does let us in on the killer’s identity early so this is more like a Columbo mystery in that we’re watching to see if the killer gets caught instead of unmasking his true identity. Although we’ll not disclose a key element of the killer or discuss the meaning of the title.

While it might seem frustrating that A Woman Kills sat in a can for decades, the movie waiting this long to emerge has allowed people to see it outside of the glut of other French movies of the ’60s. You don’t have to choose between it and the latest flicks from Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Jean-Denis Bonan gets to make you wonder what it would have been like to see his movie in 1969. A Woman Kill gets to stand out and not be part of a wave that can overwhelm a viewer.

The video is 1.33 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings a crispness to the half century old imagery. The camera roves Paris while following the characters so you see details of city life. The audio is French LPCM 2.0 mono that brings out the jazz score. The movie is subtitled in English.

Introduction by Virginie Selavy (4:53) has explain how the film sat unfinished until 2010. She describes the movie as very marginalized because some see it as erotic and others a thriller, but it has its own quirks. She points out how director Jean Rollin also appears in the film. The film was finally shown as part of theater’s series about “Anarchy in Cinema.”

Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger and Virginie Selavy has the two dig deep into the strangeness. They discuss how it isn’t a straightforward genre film. The movie contains thriller moments yet doesn’t lose its arty angles.

Of The Margins: The Cursed Films of Jean-Denis Bonan (2015/2022) (37:51) has Bona go into his career. He was born in Tunisia which informed is feelings towards the Battle of Algeria that comes up in his movie of the time. He talks of his friendship with director Jean Rollin (Fascination). His first major short film was not only banned in France, but they didn’t want him exporting the film. His second film while he dialed it back, was given a rating so anyone under 13 couldn’t see it.

The Short Life of Monsieur Meucieu (13:04) is his first short film made in 1962. He plays a guy who escapes from jail and encounters women in a field.

A Crime of Love (6:53) is incomplete and the director narrates what’s going on in this short attempted in 1965.

Sadness of the Anthropphagi (23:38) is his banned short film from 1966. There’s a lot of freakish visuals that would probably upset a French censor.

Crazy Mathieu (17:01) is his short film that features one of the stars of A Woman Kills. This was made in 1967.

A Season with Mankind (18:43) is a documentary using clips from newsreels of 1967.

Trailer (1:39) gives us a sense of the criminal element of the film from when it was finally released in 2014.

Booklet with essays and photos about the film and Jean-Denis Bonan.

Radiance presents A Woman Kills. Directed by Jean-Denis Bonan. Screenplay by Jean-Denis Bonan. Starring Claude Merlin, Solange Pradel & Myriam Mézières. Rating: Unrated. Running Time: 69 minutes. Release Date: February 7, 2023.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.