Written by: John White on April 21st, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1960
Director: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano, Lucile Saint-Simon, Pierre Bertin ,Stephane Audran
DVD released: September 26, 2000
Approximate running time: 93 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: Not Rated
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD Release: Kino
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Warning – this review contains Spoilers
A group of Shop Girls live their lives very differently. One, Jane, is impulsive and does one-night stands, one moonlights as a make believe Italian singer at a variety house, one is making themselves fit their rich fiancé’s expectations and the final quiet one, Jacqueline, wants to be romanced. They all endure their bosses’ erotic enjoyment of criticizing them and ignore the attentions of the over eager delivery man. One day at the swimming pool, they are being harassed by two men Jane has slept with, when a stranger who has been following Jane saves them from the men. Thus begins what Jane believes is true love.
Les Bonnes Femmes was Chabrol’s fourth film and his second go at the thriller genre. Unlike A Double Tour, Les Bonnes Femmes was made in Black and White and has an urban setting. Written with Paul Gegauff, Les Bonnes Femmes starts as a slice of life for the four shop girls before becoming a cautionary tale about the risks of modern romance.
Les Bonnes Femmes begins with Jane and Jacqueline on a night out where two married men ambush the shop girls and treat them to drinks at disreputable night clubs. Jane goes with the flow and ends up back at their apartment but Jacqueline makes her excuses and leaves with her virtue intact. When these men appear later at the swimming baths, their boorishness gives Jane’s admirer the opportunity to meet her. Believing her admirer is lovestruck and some kind of knight in shining armour, Jacqueline abandons her reserve and starts a romance with him. This proves her undoing as her knight becomes her murderer when a walk in the woods stops being romantic.
Whilst other directors from the New Wave were content to make stylish romps and homages to Hollywood, Chabrol took a darker turn with Les Bonnes Femmes. In the year Hitchcock made Psycho, Chabrol employed the same trick of killing off a leading character after building up your hopes for something else. Jacqueline is eminently sensible and her demise is all the more shocking giving her conservative nature and the romantic feel the movie has for 80 minutes of it’s running time. As if to make her death even more cruel, schoolchildren walk through the same woods she has been killed in.
Les Bonnes Femmes is as good as any of Chabrol’s films and probably one of the best of the early New Wave. Witty, seedy and above all shocking Les Bonnes Femmes carries the power of similar urban misadventure thrillers like Audition.
This is not a stellar DVD release. Kino present the film non-anamorphically with a good if not excellent transfer. The picture is a little dark and the contrast seems harsh, but it is quite sharp. The English subs are ok but burnt in.
There are no extras.
This seems to be the only DVD release available of this film. Given the quality of the movie it seems unthinkable that another disc won’t be forthcoming. Such a disc could easily beat what is on offer here.