Colour of Lies, The

Director: Claude Chabrol

Claude Chabrol’s work in the ’90s was variable in quality, but he ended the decade with The Colour of Lies, which ranks alongside La Ceremonie (1992) as one of his finest films of the decade. The plot is familiar enough, but what matters is the detail and the director’s sense of engagement with his material. 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 one of the last people to see the girl 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 (Antoine de Caunes), who has breezed in from Paris to his country retreat. A typically awful yet undeniable 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 it 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.
Dolby digital stereo.
108 min.

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