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A COMEDY OF POWER

Director: CLAUDE CHABROL

FRANCE-GERMANY • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 110 MIN


THE SPECIAL CHEMISTRY WHICH SEEMS TO IGNITE BETWEEN ACTRESS ISABELLE HUPPERT AND DIRECTOR CLAUDE CHABROL STRIKES AGAIN IN THIS WRY YET SUBTLY DEVASTATING PORTRAIT OF AN INVESTIGATING MAGISTRATE KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS AS SHE TACKLES A HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION SCANDAL INVOLVING THE SIPHONING OF STATE FUNDS.
Huppert is compelling throughout as the capricious yet formidable Jeanne Charmant-Killman, whose arrest of corporate baron Humeau (the ever-shifty François Berleand) for using public money to bankroll his lavish lifestyle puts the wind up his shady establishment confreres, who’ve all been using international banking chicanery to do the same. You’ll notice the embroidered red flash in their jacket buttonholes that all these fat cats seem to display, signalling the fact they’re holders of the Legion d’Honneur, and indicating Chabrol’s assessment of the rampant greed seemingly endemic in these highest, utterly snobbish echelons of French society.
Obviously inspired by the ELF Aquitaine scandal from a few years back (Chabrol even calls his main fictional company FMG), the film’s careful pacing allows us to savour the contrast between Huppert’s mildly eccentric integrity and the don’t-you-know-who-I-am! bluster of her over-privileged prey; but as her foes start to play dirty and the gruelling workload of the case begins to take its toll on Charmant-Killman’s personal life, the story becomes an increasingly sobering experience. France, as we all know, isn’t the only country with a penchant for pocket-lining, so Chabrol’s resigned weighing up of the stacked odds against the sleek elite being brought to book has an uncomfortable resonance way beyond its borders. And Huppert is a star in any language. —Trevor Johnston.

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