reLe Beau Claude: Eight Thrillers by Chabrol
LACMA Film Series
At his worst, Claude Chabrol was self-indulgent. At his best, he was vividly cinematic. Chabrol and other new wave filmmakers of the 1950s simultaneously shattered and rebuilt the conventions of Hollywood cinema. They created low budget, independently financed, and visually driven films. Almost inevitably, films such as Chabrol's were met with poor reviews, limited releases, and humble ticket sales. However small an impact his films made at the time, they would have a lasting power stronger than many of his contemporaries.
At the time, Hollywood boasted a virtual monopoly on the film industry. The name not only referred to a city, but a style—a cinematic formula, so to speak—and a studio system. Hollywood churned out what we would label “blockbusters” today, namely; big budget movies that almost guarantee profit at the box-office.
The formula hadn’t changed much since the 1920s. The Great Depression hit at about the same time as the advent of “talkies,” or sound-films. For the first time, films developed an escapist quality. Executives and audiences sought a common goal: catharsis. At a time when almost every industry was on the decline, movies were on the rise. To this day, film industry profits have remained contra-cyclical to the economy.
Audiences struggled with the difficult nature of new wave films, which they often were. The plots were on a smaller scale; many times they were not linear. Directors were only able to acquire such intense creative control because they were working outside the studio systems. The only creative restrictions were financial ones. Funds, needless to say, were limited. Godard famously shot “A Woman is a Woman” in 5 weeks. The characters wore their own clothes and most of the script was improvised. Godard labeled the film a “neorealist musical.”
Fortunately, Claude Chabrol lived to see the success and influence of his works. He passed away September 2009 at age 80.
The second installment of LACMA's weekend film series continues this Friday and Saturday (2/4, 2/5):
See the LACMA film calendar HERE
Les Cousins (1959)
Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)
Merci Pour Le Chocolat (2000)
This Man Must Die (1969)