Saturday 27 April 2013

Innocents with Dirty Hands [1975]

A young, beautiful lady, in a loveless marriage with a rich, older man, seducing a younger guy to kill her husband in order to inherit his riches, is a plot synopsis perhaps as old as cinema itself. Claude Chabrol, like so many filmmakers before and since with interest in noirs, too made use of the iconic template, and the result, even if slight and not anything path-breaking or unique, was a heady and delicious concoction of lust, jealousy, infidelity, double crosses, blackmail and murder straight out of a pulpy James Hadley Chase novel. The very first scene set the tone for the rest of the film – a drop-dead gorgeous lady (Romy Schneider) sun-bathing in the nude, very well aware of the effect it is having on the guy (Paolo Giusti) ogling at her. As it turns out, his wealthy husband (Rod Steiger) is not just 18 years older to her and alcoholic, but is impotent as well, which, the young writer of trash novels is anything but. What followed was a labyrinthine and twist-filled ride that is sure to keep one guessing right till the smartly conjured end. Chabrol didn’t just maintain his typically distant approach while filming the ménage à trois, he also infused the film with wry humour by making use of two cops investigating the crimes – a slow-thinking local detective (Pierre Santini) and his disarmingly smart Parisian friend on vacation (François Maistre), in a sly take on the country bumpkin-suave city dweller stereotype. Schneider was an eyeful as the icy femme fatale, while Steiger and Maistre were also very good. The husband’s “resurrection” – both physically and in terms of his libido, might just have been an inspiration for Kieslowski in his brilliant black comedy, White.

Director: Claude Chabrol
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Mystery/Post-Noir
Language: French
Country: France

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