Written by: John White on April 2nd, 2006
Release Dates: France / Italy, 1973
Director: Claude Chabrol
Writer: Claude Chabrol
Cast: Michel Piccoli, Stephane Audran, Claude Piéplu, Clotilde Joano, Eliana De Santis
DVD released: July 25th, 2005
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono French
DVD Release: Arrow Films
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Pierre Maury is asked by the Deputy Mayor, Paul Delamere, to join his ticket for local elections. When Maury meets Lucienne, Paul’s wife, an animal attraction attracts the two married people together. They meet wherever they can and both speak of the unhappiness of their marriages. Maury is married to the bed ridden Clotilde and Delamere has stopped being intimate with Lucienne. When Clotilde dies, Pierre tells Lucienne that he poisoned her and when Paul rumbles their affair the couple decides to deal with him rather than be blackmailed into shady business deals. Are they home free or is happiness more to do with the truth being known.
Claude Chabrol was one of the founders of the Nouvelle Vague. Along with Truffaut, Rivette, Rohmer and Godard, Chabrol represented a new direction in French cinema which emphasized the director as the author of his films and broke down many of the rules of making movies at that time. Movie cameras started to move, films started to be shot freely outside studios, and film started to comment on itself. Chabrol, despite Truffaut’s fascination with the man, became known as the “French Hitchcock” for his intricate thrillers and tales of murder and revenge. Many of Chabrol’s films were made with his wife, Stephane Audran as the lead.
Les Noces Rouges was a film that was banned in Chabrol’s France because of its similarity to a real political scandal. The film deals with a tempestuous and thrill seeking affair between a leading politician’s wife and his deputy but also allows Chabrol time for his regular theme of bourgeois sensibilities. Consequently, the lives of the central characters are miserable despite the luxury around them because of the compromises they make for that luxury, the same compromises that they come to resent and take drastic action to remove. In Les Noces Rouges, the passion of the central adultery seems as motivated by desperation as love.
Piccoli and Audran take risks in their affair. They meet in public buildings, in the bushes and in the woods all the while performing their public duties and enjoying the ironies. At one council meeting, delegates complain about a public building being used by kids for drinking, smoking and screwing and Maury asks, with a smile, how the delegates know it is kids. Audran laughs when her husband suggests his leaving for Paris immediately whilst having a meal with Maury. When the affair is found out by Paul, the two ambush him and fake a car crash. Their attempts to act innocent after the death are rumbled by Lucienne’s daughter who innocently writes to the police to ask that the death is investigated properly and the rumors about an affair are cleared up. Faced with the innocence of her daughter, Lucienne confesses.
In the end, this film is equal parts morality play and social comment. Chabrol sees the need for the affair in his two leads but they are ridiculous in their passion and chiefly running away from their lives without getting anywhere. When the Police ask at the very end why the two simply hadn’t moved to another town to begin again, Maury says “Leave? We never dreamed of living here”, the killers have been trapped by the town they live in.
Les Noces Rouges is from the greatest period of Chabrol’s film making and is a cracking film with excellent Vertigo like score and fine mannered performances from the leads. Great stuff.
Arrow Films have presented the feature in a fine print which is incredibly sharp and boasts excellent sound. The opening titles look quite mucky to be honest but the rest of the feature shows no damage to the print and the transfer is clean and very good in darker sequences.
The sound is French with excellent removable English subs and I heard no hiss, distortion or pops throughout the whole film.
There are no extras.
Les Noces Rouges is a fine film and deserves to be seen by anyone who is a fan of intelligent thrillers. It isn’t as good as Chabrol’s masterpieces Le Boucher, Que la bête meure, or Les Biches, but few films are. There are no other English compatible releases on DVD and the quality of the presentation here makes it a safe bet for a purchase.