Claude Chabrol Brian Davies - Essay

Brian Davies

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Claude Chabrol is a director who has managed to become more estranged from the critics with each film he makes….

It seems to me that Chabrol has been cast aside not so much because of any failing on his own part but because of a reluctance of the critics to respond imaginatively to his films. By no account could his films be held to be high art but at the same time they are serious, skilled, and to a limited extent, successful works. Leda [A Double Tour] is Chabrol and [co-screenwriter Paul] Gegauff's (one cannot yet talk of Chabrol without implying Gegauff) most complete statement of their ideas, both of film and of meaning, that they have made. The series from Le Beau Serge to Les Cousins to Leda represents a progression in the disentanglement of Chabrol's ideas and style rather than a regression to the level of chic gesture as has been implied. (p. 78)

The moral of [Leda's] fable is simple, and in fact much simpler than Les Cousins, the honest and genuine side triumphs finally over the phoney and conniving mother whose respectability is shown to be a sham. Yet two features of the film complicate this simple conclusion. The first of these is the extraordinary emphasis which is made in the film on beauty and beautiful things…. The parallel between beauty and moral goodness and ugliness and moral badness is repeatedly stated and reaches its culmination when the son pulls faces at himself in the mirror to make himself appear hideous and then smashes the mirror and strangles Leda.

The reason for this is not immediately easy to grasp, but it probably relates to Chabrol's idea of the hero as aristocrat...

(The entire section is 700 words.)