Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Le Beau Serge [1958]

Claude Chabrol, film critic for the iconic Cahiers du Cinéma and Hitchcock aficionado, took the plunge into filmmaking with Le Beau Serge, considered by many as the first French Nouvelle Vague film. The film might have been rough at the edges and not flawless either; nonetheless, it was a sharp, confident and engaging debut that slyly played on the urban-rural divide and the ‘city guy meets country bumpkin’ stereotype. But more than that, it was a grim and tense psychological drama that touched base on themes ranging from lost youth, memories of friendship, futile attempts at reconciliation with past and present, marital struggles, Catholic guilt, and angst borne out of frustrations, failure and jealousy. François (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns from Paris to his village hometown to allow his health to recover, only to find that things and people have changed dramatically in these last 10 years of his absence. Most importantly for him, his best friend from his younger days, Serge (Gérard Blain), has become a self-destructive alcoholic since the death of his child who treats his loving wife (Michèle Méritz) with disdain. François wants to be the do-gooder for his former buddy, but Serge becomes more and more defensive with each attempt of his on account of simmering discontent and anger for the divergent directions their lives have taken. Things become more complicated when François becomes involved with the promiscuous Marie (Bernadette Lafont). The naturalistic performances and dark cinematographic shades perfectly brought forth the moody atmosphere of the proceedings. Interestingly, Chabrol’s next feature, the excellent Les Cousins, cheekily and memorably reversed the scenario, and hence formed the perfect companion piece and follow-up to this.

Director: Claude Chabrol
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Rural Drama/Buddy Film
Language: French
Country: France

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