Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Butcher

Le Boucher; Drama/ Thriller, France, 1970; D: Claude Chabrol, S: Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferone, Mario Beccara

In a small town, during a wedding, the young teacher Helene meets butcher Popaul and they become friends. The next days, Popaul visits her during class while she gives him a black lighter for his birthday. But one day, while she was visiting a cave and forest with her class, Helene noticed a corpse of a murdered woman and Popaul's lighter in her range. Figuring he might be the wanted serial killer, she starts avoiding him. But he admits everything in front of her and kills himself with a knife.

"The Butcher", the most famous film of the "French Hitchcock" Claude Chabrol, is a fascinating little film that avoids the typical suspense gimmicks, yet still works as a sustained thriller at the same time as a drama, starting obscurely and messy with a seemingly completely average sequence of a wedding and light, casual dialogues, but quickly starts to completely naturally suck the viewer in it's world. It's an unpretentious, unobtrusive, unusual and deliberately "scarcely" made film about a serial killer, from the comical sequence in which Helene, Popaul and students dressed in medieval costumes dance up to the dark sequence where during an excursion in the nature a drop of blood falls on a girls head, so every student looks up and spot a corpse on a cliff. But, just like Hitchcock, even here the character development is more important than cheap thrill, and thus more haunting, while the ending suggest how the "hero" became a serial killer because of lack of love in present and in the past.


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