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Le Boucher

The Butcher

A classically simple but relentlessly probing thriller, set in a French village shadowed by the presence of a compulsive killer. There are some lovely Hitchcockian games, like the strange ketchup that drips onto a picnic hamburger from a clifftop where the latest victim has been claimed. But there are also more secretive pointers to social circumstances and the ‘exchange of guilt’ as Stephane Audran’s starchy schoolmistress finds herself irresistibly drawn to the ex-army butcher she suspects of being the killer: the fact, for instance, that alongside the killer as he keeps vigil outside the schoolhouse, a war memorial stands sentinel with its reminder of society’s dead and maimed. With this film Chabrol came full circle back to his first, echoing not only the minutely detailed provincial landscape of Le Beau Serge but its theme of redemption. The impasse here, a strangely moving tragedy, is that there is no way for the terrified teacher, bred to civilised restraints, to understand that her primeval butcher may have been reclaimed by his love for her.

France-Italy, 1969.
Subtitled.
94 mins.

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