Written by: John White on May 9th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: France/ Germany/ Italy, 2004
Director: Claude Chabrol
Writers: Claude Chabrol, Pierre Leccia
Cast: Benoît Magimel, Laura Smet, Aurore Clément, Bernard Le Coq, Solène Bouton, Anna Mihalcea
DVD released: March 27th 2006
Approximate running time: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital Stereo French
DVD Release: Cinefilm
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £17.99 (UK)
Synopsis: The Tardieu family have survived an absent father and mum looks like she has a found a new man, Gerard. When Gerard moves home and doesn’t call again the family are relieved as they hadn’t liked him and can concentrate on the older daughter’s wedding. There Phillipe meets a Bridesmaid, Senta, whom he tries to chat up to no success. He leaves and goes home to work and Senta turns up first on the doorstep and then in his bed. As Phillipe gets to know Senta he becomes convinced she has an overactive imagination but is shocked when she suggests each doing a murder to prove their love. When a tramp she hates seems to be murdered he jokes that he has done it, and the next morning she tells him that she has done away with Gerard. Phillipe is relieved when he sees Gerard still alive but when called into the Police he discovers that another killing has happened. Will Gerard tell the truth about Senta and why she believes she is returning a favour.
The Bridesmaid is the 66th directing job in the 76 year old Chabrol’s career. Arguably directing the first new wave film, Le Beau Serge, as his first film. 65 projects later Chabrol has become known as a very versatile director best known for his thrillers. Chabrol’s thrillers have never really been whodunits or races against time but tales of family or social life and the human foibles involved. The Bridesmaid is the second adaptation of a Ruth Rendell novel that Chabrol has attempted, the first is one of his finest films, La Ceremonie.
Phillipe Tardieu is a lonely hard-working twenty-something who still lives with his sisters and single mother. Tardieu is sensible and ostensibly conservative. When his mother gives Gerard a prized family bust that Gerard seems to not care less for Phillipe steals it back for himself. This bust acts as a signifier of his loneliness and when he eventually gives the bust to Senta he has given himself, an act of desperate sacrifice. Senta invades Phillipe’s world and demands that he give himself entirely and as proof of her love talks about the two of them doing things for one another as a love pact – planting a tree, sleeping with someone of the same sex, and killing someone for the other.
Phillipe is at first repelled by this idea but his loneliness and desire to think that Senta is not dangerous causes him to see this as lonely fancy – a game of courtship. When he returns to her he plays along by admitting to the murder of a tramp who she hates. Senta then fulfills her part of the misunderstood bargain.
Families have always been important to Chabrol’s films. Frequently dysfunctional, often cold and sterile, the family in Chabrol films is more likely a breeding ground for madness and evil than a source of support. Here two families are compared – Senta and her isolation from her stepmother, and the Tardieus with married daughter, shoplifting daughter and industrious son. In addition to this, the Bridesmaid is littered with members of the Chabrol family – Thomas plays a detective, Matthieu provides the music and Aurore is the script supervisor.
The Bridesmaid is a relatively straightforward film of romantic misadventure. Phillipe is the sensible one who gives himself over to a passion that will end in jail or his own grave. When at the end he goes to Senta’s cellar he says he has called the police yet he still promises to never leave her as the police walk about outside – i he entrapping Senta or implicating himself? The Bridesmaid is well made if a little slight, more of a literate entertainment than a clever thriller. It is further evidence that Chabrol still makes fine films.
This is one of the better DVD treatments that Chabrol has had. The anamorphic transfer is sharp and shows off the extensive use of natural light well. The sound is very good with 5.1 and stereo options and the English subs are nigh perfect.
The extras include some on the set footage which is extremely enlightening about Chabrol’s art. We see him directing scenes where the script has to be changed at the last moment because of the wrong car, and where actors need to synchronize their expression to fit with camera movement. We also see that his cast love this rather jolly avuncular figure. Magimel in fact dances with him at one point. There is also a trailer.
Chabrol has never got his due respect for his films; Godard hasn’t made a decent movie in 30 years but still gets every critics’ adoration. That Chabrol goes on even with a minor piece like this drives home his importance, no other living director makes better thrillers. This is a fine package well worth a purchase.