Tuesday, September 28, 2010

French master Claude Chabrol dead at 80

Claude Chabrol, one of the masters of the French New Wave, has died. The way he was making movies I thought he would live forever. Chabrol was more than a prolific filmmaker whose most recent movie was last year’s Inspector Bellamy with Gerard Depardieu. If there’s any justice in the world (but of course there isn’t) there should be a film festival devoted to his works. He made 72 films for big screen and TV, specializing in the psychological crime genre. He brought to prominence stars like Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Bonnaire. Huppert is especially memorable in the 2000 film Merci pour le Chocolat where she plays a respectable upper class maven who no one would suspect of malevolent intent. Chabrol’s pictures play on themes of evil and madness with seemingly normal characters who often tip over the edge. People say Hitchcock is dark but Chabrol is darker. (In fact Chabrol and fellow new waver Eric Rohmer wrote a book about Hitchcock.) Chabrol, along with Rohmer, Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard (Chabrol was technical advisor on Godard’s Breathless) all started in film criticism at the famed journal Cahiers du Cinema. Chabrol in person was a gregarious bon vivant, a raconteur and wit, delighting in sumptuous meals, with humour pervading movie sets and very much one of the gang with actors and crew. This of course is in stark contrast to the themes of his films. But why not? It’s like Yin and Yang. Claude Chabrol, one of the truly great ones – and my overall favourite director – has succumbed, no doubt moving on to a splendid banquet in the sky with great conversation and not a little dark humour about his new circumstances. (Photo credit: movie.idv.tw)

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