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La Femme infidele

The Unfaithful Wife

With this masterpiece Chabrol inaugurates his great series of films which scrutinise the civilised surface and dark underside of bourgeois life. The superb Stephane Audran and Michel Bouquet play the first of the recurring Helene/Charles couples. Here they are quietly enduring a fading marriage until Charles discovers that Helene has a lover. The dark forces of natural instinct come to the fore when Charles murders his rival. The paradox is that the couple’s true love for each other should be reborn through this act of violence. The tragedy is that society now demands that the couple be parted. By this stage in his career Chabrol has assimilated the Hitchcock influence into his own mature style, as confirmed in the justly celebrated closing scene, which echoes the simultaneous tracking out and zooming in of the camera lens in Vertigo. Hitchcock used this device to create a sensation of vertigo in the viewer, but Chabrol employs it to convey the idea that his protagonists have never been closer than at the point of their separation.

France/Italy, 1968.
English subtitles.
Colour.
98 min.

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