Sunday 29 December 2013

Juste Avant la Nuit [1971]

Just Before Nightfall, with its premise of a philandering husband who ends up murdering his best friend’s wife he’s having an illicit affair on the sly with, had B- noir written all over it. However, Chabrol, in a smart reversal of expectations, turned this into the kind of morality exercise that Woody too would become enamored with. Consequently, instead of being a standard take on crime and punishment, it was more a study on guilt that ends up overshadowing the fear of getting caught. The film begins with committing of the crime in order to relegate the act to a secondary status – Charles (Michel Bouquet), the wealthy owner of an advertising firm, accidentally kills the wife of his long-time friend François (François Périer), during enactment of a violent fetish. However, he eventually starts suffering from strong pangs of guilty conscience that starts affecting his relationship with his wife (Stéphane Audran). In an intelligent psychological twist, when he confesses his dalliances and crime to his wife, she ironically reacts with calmness and understanding, and becomes concerned, instead, that he might end up confessing to the police and destroy their family in the process. Bouquet gave a startling portrayal of a man engulfed by the weight of the secret in his heart as he becomes increasingly desperate for the comeuppance that he feels he deserves. His empathetic reaction when an employee in his firm is caught stealing was revelatory in this regard. Both Audran and Périer were effective, while the malevolent twist in the climax seemed right out of a magician’s hat. Interestingly, the film had the same leads, and as a married couple too, as La Femme Infidele, which he made 2 years back, and formed the perfect complementary piece to it from a thematic standpoint.

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

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