La Femme Infidele

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 human nature come to the surface when the civilised 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. Balancing sympathy with sardonic wit, Chabrol imbues his spot-on depictions of family rituals with great subtlety. By this stage the French director had assimilated the Hitchcock influences into his own mature style, as confirmed in the justly famous closing scene of La Femme Infidele, 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 Charles and Helene have never been closer than at the point of their separation.

France-Italy, 1968.
98 mins.

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