La Rupture

This full-blooded melodrama followed hot on the heels of the subtle ambiguities and beautifully observed details of Chabrol’s most celebrated film, Le Boucher. The result was that La Rupture was seriously underrated by critics who dismissed it as an overwrought potboiler. The film is deliberately extreme and brutal, and Chabrol gleefully complicates matters by mixing the pulp elements with the kind of literary and cinematic references (Balzac, Murnau’s Sunrise) that critics and art-house audiences only expect to find in quality movies. La Rupture is essentially a bold variation on the director’s crime thrillers, in which the female character of Helene is accorded much more prominence and sympathy. It is also an all-out attack, not so much on the hypocrisy as the sheer nastiness and evilness of the bourgeois family. Stephane Audran’s Helene is married to a drug-addled wretch who throws their young son against a wall in the opening sequence. Our heroine fights like a tigress to secure a divorce and custody of the child, but the odds are stacked against her. The weak husband retires hurt to his wealthy family, who use every conceivable dirty trick to discredit Helene. Chabrol’s depiction of this titanic struggle contrives to be both brutally direct and tantalisingly abstract. The result is an exciting and fascinating film.

France-Italy-Belgium, 1970.
125 mins.

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