Monday, 6 August 2012

Le Boucher (The Butcher) [1970]

Though French auteur Claude Chabrol made a string of highly acclaimed movies in his prolific career, Le Boucher undeniably remains his most widely reckoned work among foreign film enthusiasts. This moody and slow-burning psychological thriller was a riveting character study and a disturbing love story, and has been likened as distinctly Hitchcockian in its style, themes and execution. The movie starts with an elaborate Catholic wedding sequence (reminiscent of the opening sequence of The Godfather) where the two principal protagonists, viz. Helena (Chabrol regular Stephane Audran), the young headmistress of a school, and Popaul (Jean Yanne), the local butcher and a former army man, are introduced to the viewers as well as to each other. Both being reserved, introverted and lonely individuals with few, if any, friends, they take an instant liking to each other, and the bond keeps growing stronger the more they meet and interact with each other. In a distressing twist to their burgeoning friendship and platonic relationship beautifully captured by the director and the actors, he has a deeply scarred past on account of the violent memories of his army days, and his sense of alienation is not helped by her strong apathy towards any forms of intimacy. Meanwhile, the quaint town that they live in gets terrorized by a vicious serial killer who is butchering one young woman after another – and this starts adding subtexts to their already complex relationship. Despite the exquisite evocation of suspense and mystery, Chabrol never intended this as just another plot-based thriller, and neither did he provide any easy answers, as he led the viewers to a haunting, deeply ambiguous and memorable finale.

Director: Claude Chabrol
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Mystery
Language: French
Country: France

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