Dir. Claude Chabrol.Fr-Ger. 2004. 110mins.
By now veteran film-makerClaude Chabrol should be able to deliver a film like The Bridesmaid (LaDemoiselle d'Honneur) with his hands tied behind his back - so comfortableand familiar and comfortable is he with the troubled, frayed fringes of theFrench bourgeoisie and their efforts to disguise themselves behind a prim,respectable facade.
Adapting Ruth Rendell'snovels to this end is another one of his favourite pastimes, and it all adds upto make The Bridesmaid largely predictable yet utterly enjoyablethroughout.
True, it's not the bestChabrol by a long way, but his fans will appreciate, once again, his ironicaltone and sly observations, which he surreptitiously slips in at the mostunexpected moments. Whether it is vintage Chabrol or not, it's nice to know theold devious mind is still at work.
With two of France's mostattractive heartthrobs, Benoit Magimel and Laura Smet, and a supportive cast ofold timers like Aurore Clement and Bernard Le Coq behind them, TheBridesmaid is bound do as well at the box office as any of the recentChabrols and given his reputation, is bound to travel far and wide around theworld. The film, which screened out of competition at Venice is released inFrance on Nov 17.
Philippe (Magimel) is apresentable young man, a smooth salesman preparing for a career as a buildingcontractor. But he also has responsibilities and tries, with various degrees ofsuccess, to take care of his family's problems. He lives with his mother (Clement),a hairdresser who has dedicated all her life to raising her children, and histwo younger sisters, one about to marry, the other a rebellious teenager.Ostensibly it seems a pleasant, caring family, but during the course of thefilm each family member tries to escape.
At his sister's wedding,Philippe meets a bridesmaid, Senta (Smet) and the instant infatuation betweenthem soon turns into an obsessive affair. She claims they were born for eachother, and to clinch their ties for ever, demands four proofs of his eternallove: they are that he plant a tree, writing a poem, make love with someone ofthe same sex and kill another human being.
The story tells us thatSenta was named after the heroine of The Flying Dutchman - an apt choice, givenher erratic, irrational behaviour, which pulls pulling Philippe ever more intoa whirlwind of passion over which he loses control.
There is no need to waituntil the ambivalent ending, which suggests more than one interpretation onevents, to discern Chabrol's intentions. Throughout the film he smartlyinsinuates everything he has to say about the kind of people he portrays, fromfickle nature of social relationships between them, the urgent need of many tobreak away from their families or the dark recesses of the human mind thatlevel-headed people are too scared to explore - unless they are given a littlepush.
But Chabrol's greatestachievement lies in the style rather than the contents of The Bridesmaid.It is a pleasure, a rare one these days, to watch a master who always knows thebest place to place the camera and how he want to move it, the kind of lightinghe prefers and what exactly he expects from his actors.
Imperceptibly, without anyvisible effort, he creates an uneasy, awkward feeling that evil is about toerupt in the most innocuous circumstances, generating a strange anxiety that isnot necessarily apparent the plot.
Magimel and Smet areenticing and handsome to look at as the doomed lovers, while Michel Duchaussoyand Suzanne Flon are delightful in their short cameos.
Prod cos: Aliceleo, Canal Diffusion, France 2 Cinema, IntegralFilm
Int'l sales: Studiocanal
Fr dist: BAC
Prod: Antoine Passalia, PatrickGodeau, Alfred Hurner
Scr: Pierre Leccia, ClaudeChabrol, based on novel by Ruth Rendell
Cine: Eduardo Serra
Ed: Monique Fardoulis
Prod des: Francoise Benoit-Fresco
Music: Mathieu Chabrol
Main cast: Benoit Magimel, LauraSmet, Aurore Clement, Bernard Le Coq, Solene Bouton, Anna Mihalcea, MichelDuchaussoy, Suzanne Flon, Eric Seigne, Pierre-Francois Dumeniaud, PhilippeDuclos, Thomas Chabrol