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Claude Chabrol collection

Claude Chabrol limited edition collector's boxset: Les Biches, La Femme infidèle, Que la bete meure, Le Boucher, Juste avant le nuit, Les noces rouges, Nada, Madame Bovary

Le Boucher
cast: Stéphane Audran, and Jean Yanne

writer and director: Claude Chabrol

93 minutes (15) 1970
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
During some local wedding celebrations in a small rural French village, much-loved schoolteacher Helene (Stéphane Audran), strikes up a conversation with butcher Popaul (Jean Yanne). Whilst they do not appear to have much in common, the foundations are laid for a tentative relationship which blossoms into love. In this regard, both Audran and Yanne are superb in their roles, which is essential as the believability of this relationship lies at the crux of the movie.

Where Helene's background in terms of love has not previously been happy - due to a bad relationship ten years in the past she has remained single - Popaul's background has largely been one of violence, fighting in the French army in Algeria and Indochina. Her character is wholesome, yet not twee; his is brutish, yet not apparently barbaric. However, as they allow their feelings for each other to develop something startling begins to happen around them. Young girls are found murdered and the finger of suspicion points heavily to Popaul. But will Helene betray him when she finds out what she knows?

Le Boucher

Le Boucher (The Butcher) is a superb piece of quiet filmmaking that is both subtle and compelling. Despite the simplicity of the rural setting - which Chabrol pinpoints with his usual accuracy - the main characters have deep, complex emotions that are not easily directed by the moral code under which they know they must live. Helene's feelings towards Popaul become at odds with what she discovers about him - to admit the truth would undo her fantasy - to deny it simply perpetuates a lie. Desire for normality also runs through Popaul, who seems tortured by his compulsions but whose relief, through Helene, cannot control him. Chabrol marvellously balances their emotions: they both fear each other and yet fear losing each other. Whilst the ending is hardly revelatory, it feels honest. Chabrol cuts to the bone of their humanity without us losing an inch of our respect for them. Deservedly, the movie is a classic.

Like the other films in Arrow's Chabrol collection there are no extras on the DVD.

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