Written by: John White on April 3rd, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: France/Italy, 1971
Director: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Michel Bouquet , Stephane Audran, François Périer, Henri Attal
DVD released: July 25 2005
Approximate running time: 102 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen (letterboxed)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD Release: Arrow Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL
Retail Price: £15.99
In the midst of sex Charles is incited to be rough with his mistress, Laura, and when he gets over enthusiastic she is strangled. Leaving her friends apartment, Charles bumps into Laura’s husband, Francois, in a bar. When Laura’s death is reported as murder, Charles finds himself above suspicion and it is only his conscience that troubles him becoming unable to sleep and starting to have a nervous breakdown. Charles confesses to his wife who counsels him that it was an accident and that he should concentrate on their family rather than giving himself up.
Plagued further by guilt, Charles confesses to Francois who advises him the same. Without any condemnation, Charles resolves in a last night of sleeplessness to go to the police and his wife reluctantly agrees before fixing his sleeping potion. Charles is found dead, apparently suicide.
Just before Nightfall is prime Chabrol. Middle Class guilt competes with right and wrong and wins out in the motivation of Charles, his wife and Francois. The shame of publicly admitting murder is far worse to these characters than the actual act Charles committed. They would rather that their comfortable Christmases and proper dinner parties remain unperturbed. At the centre of the story, Michel Bouquet, is a rather shallow man who needs to feel his actions are judged – “I will have no peace until I’m cuffed”. Francois is a man who refuses to judge his wife’s affair as he does the same, and a man who would rather keep a lifelong friend and customer than have justice served.
The script is explicit in regard to these bourgeois sensibilities. Charles has had his house designed to avoid the “sclerosis” of the “bourgeois” and both families have servants and great opulence. Their anxiety is neatly contrasted with a sub-plot of a crooked accountant at Charles’ firm who steals the payroll to pay for his young lover and when asked why by the anxious Charles simply tells him to “go to hell”.
Just before Nightfall is an excellent satirical thriller which isn’t so much about Charles’ attempts to undo himself but the faintly ridiculous morals of the main characters. In the very end Charles’ wife and Francois would prefer to remember how “lovable” his guilt made him rather ponder on the adultery or murder.
This is a superior piece from Chabrol and a fine mix of wit, great writing and sound performances.
Arrow films present the film in it’s original aspect ratio in a letterboxed print. The quality of the print is not as good as their other recent Chabrol, Les Noces Rouges, with the picture being very dark in some crucial scenes such as Charles’ confession to Francois. The colours are also a little faded but the overall quality of the picture is better than the R1 Chabrol releases from Pathfinder. The sound is good but there is a degree of damage audible with hisses and pops throughout. The removable English subs are excellent.
There are no extras.
There are no other available English language releases of this film so this is the only choice available on DVD. The disc is not as excellent as Arrow’s other Chabrol discs but this is such a good movie that you should own this if you want a little Hitchcock with a dash of Gallic satire.
For more information about Juste Avant La Nuit (aka Just Before Nightfall) and other titles released by Arrow films visit their website.