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L’ ivresse du pouvoir

Director: Claude Chabrol

France. 2006. 110mins


A sleek, hand-tooled, sophisticated entertainment, Claude Chabrol’s latest film artfully walks a line between moral comedy and political thriller. Isabelle Huppert plays Jeanne Charmant-Killman, aka the ‘Piranha’, an examining magistrate assigned to untangle a vipers’ nest of high-level bureaucratic chicanery. Her new post catapults her into the public eye and boosts her already considerable powers: woe betide the executive whose office suffers one of Jeanne’s surprise raids. But Jeanne’s work as a professional nemesis has its own subtly damaging effects on her personal life. This is a witty –and typically for Chabrol, pessimistic—examination of the psychological ill-effects of privilege (the French title is more accurately translated as ‘The Drunkenness of Power’). A blue-chip supporting cast adds to the acidic fun: among the corrupt captains of business, Berleand is impeccably nervy, while Jean-François Balmer gives a masterclass in the art of shiftiness. As for Huppert, she’s at her brittle best.

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