Claude Chabrol Richard Davis - Essay

Richard Davis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Very few of us are really interested in an end of term or end of course thesis which is what [Bluebeard, or Landru] appears. There is no point of contact between the audience and what is going on on the screen, and unless, as in certain specific cases the intellectual purpose of a film is so valid and significant that it will survive on its own rarified level, any anti-emotional film, by its deliberate withdrawal, will fail. An art of the people should stay of the people.

Chabrol has so heavily stylised his treatment of the Bluebeard story that form comes to impose a disproportionate tyranny over content. The shapelessness advocated by the young enthusiastic practitioners of the New Wave in France, and still typified faithfully in Godard, has here caused a reaction so fundamental that reality has little or no place in the stately proceedings. Also, Chabrol's passion for detail—he shows every one of Landru's victims, where Chaplin, for instance, would have shown three or four only—becomes irritating and distracting….

This version of the story is bound to be compared with Chaplin's Verdoux: the basic principles underlying the creator's philosophy are the same, and for this reason the two works demand comparison, much to the latter's detriment. (p. 32)

Richard Davis, "The New Films: 'Bluebeard'" (© copyright Richard Davis 1965; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 11, No. 5, February, 1965, pp. 32-3.