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Bridesmaid, The

Director: Claude Chabrol

France| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 110 min.


When the master of French thrillers Claude Chabrol meets the mistress of English suspense fiction Ruth Rendell, the result is a potent if very classic blend. The Bridesmaid is pleasing precisely for the way it expertly follows genre rules in its story of a young femme fatale who demands ultimate proof of love. At 74, Chabrol is in full possession of his talent for elegant, understated filmmaking. In a quiet French town only slightly rocked by the news of a missing girl, Philippe (Benoît Magimel) lives with his attractive hairdresser mother Christine (Aurore Clement) and his two younger sisters. One night, Christine introduces her offspring to Gerard (Bernard le Coq), a businessman who has been courting her, and asks their permission to give him the sculpted head of a woman in their garden as a present.
They reluctantly agree. Gerard, however, disappears from Christine’s life and Philippe retrieves the sculpture in secret. He hides it in his closet and develops a strange attachment to it; not long after, at his sister’s wedding, he meets her bridesmaid Senta (Laura Smet), who bears an eerie resemblance to the statue. She seduces him during a thunderstorm and the die is cast for an unpredictable, dangerous relationship. Senta, a model and wannabe actress, lives in the basement of a huge house her father left her. Rather humorously, Philippe tries to juggle his sultry girlfriend and exciting new sex life with a steady job and family propriety. But the girl’s true nature remains shrouded in mystery, creating a low-level tension that hovers unnervingly in the background of the film. When she asks Philippe to murder a stranger to prove his love for her, he doesn’t take her seriously. Things precipitate in the following scenes, and the conclusion, while far from a surprise or great psychological revelation, offers a satisfying last twist.

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