Wednesday 6 December 2023

Story of Women [1988]

 Story of Women, the 2nd of 7 collaborations between Claude Chabrol and Isabelle Huppert, comprised of a radically non-conformist anti-heroine – a historical figure whose crimes are interpreted as an attack on patriarchal norms and bourgeois morality, thus setting her against the society – that immediately reminds one of their stunningly scorching first association from exactly a decade back, Violette Noziere. It was also the French filmmaker’s most frontal assault on the hypocrisy and criminality of Vichy France – when the puppet Nazi satellite that was established during the German Occupation had to, among other things, execute a certain number of people to appease their masters – through this true story of the last women to be guillotined in this country. Marie Latour (Huppert), who faced this abominable punishment, was a working-class woman with two kids who, during her husband’s extended absence on account of being a slave labourer in Germany, embraces two rather murky vocations as means to escape from her squalid existence. She starts performing clandestine abortions – that wasn’t just illegal, but was considered then a grave crime against fascist morality – and also starts renting out rooms for her prostitute friend. Upon succeeding in improving her lifestyle, she continues pursuing these even after the return of her husband Paul (François Cluzet). Ironically, her arrest is precipitated not due to her infractions, rather by her cuckolded husband’s bruised ego at her brash refusal to play the traditional role of a wife. Chabrol presented a cutting commentary on patriarchy, hypocrisy, collusion and culpability of the Vichy government; and, buoyed by Huppert’s riveting turn, Marie evolved into a fierce, edgy and complex person who’s demonized for never trying or wanting to be a saint.

Director: Claude Chabrol

Genre: Drama/Historical Drama/Feminist Cinema/Docufiction

Language: French

Country: France

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