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Que le bête meure
cast: Michel Duchaussoy, Jean Yanne, Caroline Cellier, and Lorraine Rainer

director: Claude Chabrol

110 minutes (15) 1969
widescreen ratio 16:9
Fremantle / Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
This superb film by Claude Chabrol deals with the obsessive nature of revenge after a boy is killed in a hit and run accident by the thoroughly dislikeable Paul Delcourt (Jean Yanne). Believing that the police are impotent in their investigations, the boy's father, Charles Thénier (Michel Duchaussoy), avows to seek out his son's killer and, by a series of chance encounters, manages to infiltrate his home and plans to exact his vengeance.

Que le bête meure (aka: This Man Must Die) works on multiple levels and throws many moral dilemmas into the viewer's lap. Delcourt is shown to be a thoroughly despicable individual, hated by his own wife and child, a braggart and a philanderer with no thoughts for anyone other than himself. Yet, given all of that, one wonders whether he should be brought to justice rather than killed. Thénier is shown to be a quiet, thoughtful man and loving father, admirable even further by being a single parent (the assumption being that his wife is dead), yet he employs considerable deceit in his motives, as he seduces Delcourt's sister-in-law in order to get into the family.

The acting and pacing of the film is exquisite, filled with surprises. Thénier keeps a diary of his exploits, which falls into Delcourt's hands, but is that a mistake or is it deliberate? As Thénier says to the police who question him after Delcourt's death: "Imagining a crime is no crime" and "being delighted by a crime is no crime either."

Out of the four Chabrol films reviewed by myself this month, this seemed the most complete and satisfactory. Perhaps in this story he lives up to his Hitchcockian comparisons, and I'm loathe to comment more on the plot in case it spoils the enjoyment of the viewer. Suffice to say that Duchaussoy is superb in his role as Thénier, his intentions, drive, and beliefs wholly believable in his character. The supporting players are also equal to the task that Chabrol sets them. I recommend this movie without reservations.

On a final note, the dialogue also excels in this film. After numerous dead ends and false trails, Thénier ponders: "I quite realise that the terrain is limitless. That I am one man on earth seeking another. My only weapon is patience; I can wait. I have all my life, and all his. Unless chance takes a hand; chance is weird, and it does exist. In fact, chance is all there is. Like everything else, my pen on this paper is a coincidence."

Chance, fate, and the tenuous nature of our own existences: Chabrol weaves this movie intricately with it all.

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