Appellate Judge James A. Stewart hopes Claude Chabrol is creating the Heaven New Wave.
Our review of The Bridesmaid, published April 16th, 2007, is also available.
"Claude Chabrol, the director who helped give rise to the French New Wave and who went on to make a series of stylish, suspense-filled films that were often compared to those of Alfred Hitchcock, died today in Paris. He was 80."—The New York Times, September 12, 2010
That obit excerpt on the back cover of Chabrol: Two Classic Thrillers From the Legendary Director—La Demoiselle D'Honneur (The Bridesmaid) and Merci Pour Le Chocolat seems to be the reason for this two-movie collection, which appears to combine previous releases.
Facts of the Case
Each movie has its own disc:
Le Demoiselle D'Honneur (The Bridesmaid)
Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Nightcap)
Viewers who aren't already fans of Claude Chabrol probably won't be impressed at the start of either movie, even as the family in The Bridesmaid discusses a murder report they're seeing on TV. Both movies start out small and build toward unnerving conclusions.
The Bridesmaid does its building brilliantly, with odd little details, such as Philippe's mom wants to give away a bust in the backyard to her lover, and the family gathers around the stone head and the typical inappropriate wedding song. You'll feel a little nervous without knowing why. That nervousness continues through Philippe's early encounters with Senta; as she takes him down to her "realm," a basement apartment, your mind will fill with erotic and murderous possibilities. Actually she's just a sloppy housekeeper. What a relief! Up until the last few minutes, your mind will go up and down with fear and relief. Is Senta a murderess? Is she kidding? The duet between Benoît Magimel as Philippe and Laura Smet as Senta is one that'll probably still leave your mind bouncing even if you've seen this one a few times. If their performances weren't enough, Chabrol fills it with nifty little touches, in keeping with his theory that "a small detail throws everything out of kilter" in a good thriller, which he discusses in the making-of; check out a police station that feels like an endless disorienting maze.
In Nightcap, though, the building is too obvious. Isabelle Huppert as Mika comes off creepy from the start, and the story isn't as twisty as Bridesmaid. Everything is telegraphed in the first few scenes, so you'll likely be way ahead of the plot as it marches toward its conclusion. Still, Rodolphe Pauly (The Count of Monte Cristo) as Guillaume, Andre's son, and Anna Mouglalis (Gainsbourg) as Jeanne give performances that bring heart to the movie as their characters delve into the mystery; Guillaume is full of doubt, but he's guided by the more adventurous and sure Jeanne into a fateful decision. Of course, the introduction text by Chabrol indicates that it's more of a character study of the murderous Mika. As such, it raises more questions than answers; that could be intriguing or dull, depending on your cinematic tastes. Here Chabrol says he strove for "simplicity and elegance," and he accomplishes it. It's well-done, but it never hits as hard as the headliner movie.
Both movies have an ominous score by Chabrol's son Matthieu that tells you when to feel nervous. In both cases, that obvious score comes across fully, as does the music in Nightcap as Andre teaches Jeanne the finer points of classical piano. I noticed slight flaws on the picture in Nightcap, but Bridesmaid looked pristine.
Bridesmaid includes a condensed version of a making-of, which presents images such as Chabrol giving his leads direction against a stormy surf backdrop. There's also a text interview with Chabrol, a bio, and a meager photo gallery. Nightcap has Chabrol's text introduction, bios of Chabrol and his stars, and the original French trailer.
Bridesmaid contains nudity and erotic suggestion. The more subdued Nightcap is rather tame.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The English subtitles are burned onto the picture, which may be a distraction for fluent French speakers.
Given that the release does try to pay tribute to the late director Claude Chabrol, a short final tribute retrospective might have been in order. As it is, this looks like a hasty job; they couldn't even be bothered to come up with an anamorphic transfer for Nightcap.
While you might not consider films from 2000 and 2004 "classic thrillers"—they're practically still toddlers—fans of Claude Chabrol who missed these films the first time around will be pleased with the chance to catch up. I do believe there's an eventual classic in La Demoiselle D'Honneur (The Bridesmaid). I wasn't quite as impressed with Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Nightcap), but it's a reasonable diversion for Chabrol fans.
I'd seek out a two-for-the-price-of-one price. If you find one, The Bridesmaid is worth owning and Nightcap is worth a look.
While the quality of the movies varies, this double feature is not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Nightcap)
Perp Profile, Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Nightcap)
Studio: First Run Features
Distinguishing Marks, Merci Pour Le Chocolat (Nightcap)
• Text Intro
Scales of Justice, The Bridesmaid
Perp Profile, The Bridesmaid
Studio: First Run Features
Distinguishing Marks, The Bridesmaid
Review content copyright © 2011 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.