Claude Chabrol’s The Colour of Lies receives a belated but very welcome release hot on the heels of his latest, Merci pour le chocolat. Taken together, the two films represent the very best of Chabrol. Merci pour le chocolat is a portrait of psychosis that’s as cool and elegant as the director’s 1960s classic Les Biches. The Colour of Lies is a more direct exploration of man’s deep rooted murderous impulses. The setting is a small, close-knit community on the northern coast of France, where the rape and murder of a local girl comes as a shock, not least to the newly-appointed female police chief (Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi). Suspicion falls on Rene (Jacques Gamblin), a painter whose job as art teacher at the local school means that he was the last person to see the victim alive. A moody and none too successful artist, Rene receives total support from his wife Viviane (Sandrine Bonnaire). As the police go through the motions of an investigation, we are introduced to a series of colourful local characters. Also in residence is media star and ladies’ man Germain-Roland Desmot (played by real-life media star Antoine de Caunes), who has breezed in from Paris to his country retreat. A typically awful yet undeniably funny Chabrol creation, Desmot is a dilettante who simultaneously contributes to left- and right-wing newspapers. Quoting famous sayings as though they were his own, he flirts outrageously with Viviane and seems a ripe candidate for the role of monster. But nothing is quite as simple as it first appears in Chabrol’s universe, as demonstrated in a film that weaves a complex pattern in its movement towards ‘the heart of the lie’
France, 1999.English subtitles.Colour.Dolby digital stereo.108 mins.