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The Butcher
The Butcher
Actors: Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferone, Mario Beccara
Director: Claude Chabrol
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2003     1hr 33min

Le Boucher (The Butcher) is possibly Claude Chabrol's best known and critically acclaimed film. At a friend's wedding, Helen meets Popaul (Yanne), an ex-soldier with combat honors from Algeria and Indo-China, who has retu...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferone, Mario Beccara
Director: Claude Chabrol
Creators: Jean Rabier, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Gaillard, André Génovès
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Pathfinder Home Ent.
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/20/2003
Original Release Date: 12/19/1971
Theatrical Release Date: 12/19/1971
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Lewis P. (Turfseer) from NEW YORK, NY
Reviewed on 10/24/2010...
Le Boucher is no Hitchcock thriller or art house classic

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Le Boucher is billed as a thriller about a serial killer in a small, provincial French town. It's won accolades as a classic art film and its director, Claude Chabrol, has been compared to Hitchcock in his heyday. For those who are expecting to see another classic 'art film' or something akin to a scary, suspenseful Hitchcock film, you will be disappointed.

The plot of Le Boucher is pretty basic. Stephane Audran plays Helene, an attractive woman in her late 30s, who is a primary schoolteacher in a small French town. At the wedding of one of her colleagues at the school, Leon, she meets Popaul, an Army veteran and local butcher. Helene is coming off a failed relationship and has retreated to the countryside, in order to avoid any future entanglements. Popaul immediately begins courting Helene and ends up making dinner for her, utilizing a fine choice cut of meat he brings from his butcher shop. At one point, Popaul shows up at Helene's school where she's teaching a class. He makes some inappropriate remarks in front of the children and for some reason, no red flags are raised in Helene's eyes.

The relationship between Helene and Popaul continues to develop but finally Helene makes it clear that she's not interested in a physical relationship. Meanwhile, the police have begun investigating the first of a series of murders of young women in the town. Helene takes her school children on a class trip first to a cave where the group marvels at paintings created by ancient cave dwellers. On the way back, Helene and the children stop beneath an overhanging cliff and some blood drips from above on one of the children's' faces. Helene climbs up the hill and discovers Leon's wife's body, obviously murdered. Next to the body is a lighter which she had given Popaul as a birthday gift.

There aren't many thrills and chills after that. Helene inexplicably fails to notify the police despite knowledge about the murders but also attempts to avoid Popaul. He finally confronts Helene inside the school house and menaces her with a knife. At the very moment that you believe he is going to kill Helene, the screen blacks out, and the next you know, the knife is sticking inside Popaul's stomach. It appears that this is a suicide attempt. Helene coolly drives Popaul to the hospital, where he expires.

Chabrol never makes it clear why Helene decides not to cooperate with the police and eventually turn Popaul in. She seems to be a bright and educated woman and you would think that she would be especially horrified that Popaul murdered her colleague's wife. But she does nothing. Some reviewers interpret the final scene as Helene being the one who ended up killing Popaul; others sense Helene is satisfied after she learns from the doctor that Popaul has died. If that's true, Chabrol is perhaps suggesting that Helene has ambivalent feelings about Popaul. On one hand, she wants to give him the 'chance' of surviving by driving him to the hospital; on the other hand, she's relieved when he dies, since deep down she knows he's a monster. If in fact Helene is ambivalent about Popaul, Chabrol is deliberately choosing to be enigmatic. He hasn't provided us with enough reasons for Helene's ambivalence and it makes Helene's character unsympathetic, since her failure to notify the police, is a clear moral lapse.

Le Boucher is perhaps best in capturing the atmosphere in a French provincial town. The acting is low-key but certainly noteworthy. Nonetheless, one waits in vain for something really dramatic to happen. When we finally get to the denouement, we already know that Popaul is the killer, and his suicide is a let-down. Couldn't there have been a little bit more of a surprise ending? On the basis of this film, I don't know why Chabrol has been compared to Hitchcock as the film lacks the necessary suspense to be included in the Hitchcock pantheon.

Movie Reviews

DVD info
Gary W. McClintock | Clive, IA USA | 05/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"According to the packaging this DVD is meant to be letter-boxed (enhanced for 16X9 televisions). Yes and no. On my up-scale DVD player the DVD projects in full-screen mode. Like most DVD players in the U.S. there is no X-Y feature to correct this. My odd ball brand region-free DVD player does, however, play the DVD in letterbox (though it needed quite a lot of correcting using the X-Y feature). Go figure. Since the film is a wide aspect ratio (the packaging doesn't state the ratio but I'm guessing somewhere around 2.7:1) it is very important that it be viewed letterbox. The DVD has an audio commentary delivered by a couple film school teachers who spend a little too much time entertaining each other, though I've heard much worse commentaries on much more expensive DVDs. The only other special feature is a trailer. Obviously I'm rating the DVD high on the basis of the film alone. Le Boucher is a great film. Chabrol's films frequently have a plot arch that is virtually flat. Everybody compares Chabrol to Hitchcock, and there are certainly plenty of visual references to Hitchcock, but Hitchcock would never tell stories this way, without melodrama, about people this irredeemably emotionally blunted. (IMDB has some reviews of this film that miss the point that the teach Helene is every bit as evil as the butcher.) Not every Chabrol film works for me every viewing but I've never been able to turn away when watching this film."
The Ancient and the New
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 07/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Superb. Excellent. And every other superlative you can think of.
Funny how when you see a bad or flawed movie you are full of words but in the presaence of a masterpiece you are speechless. From the beginning sequence in caves while the credits roll to the final scene of Stephane Audran by the sea you are speechless as before a painting which captures an ineffable mystery.
Most of Chabrol films involve the wealthy but this one follows two very humble lives in a rural French village near the mountains. The town butcher meets the schools headmistress at a mutual friends wedding and from there on the film follows their unusual courtship. He served in the military for 15 years and has seen his fill of bloodshed and waste and as a result he has aquired a rather maudlin view of life. She suffered heartbreak 10 years previous to their meeting and has kept her distance from men ever since. But then they meet and there is an immediate attraction beyond eithers control. The caves that Chabrol so evocatively photographs and which the headmistress provides a rather intriguing commentary on link the everyday goings on of life in the village with human natures primitive past. Meanwhile somewhere in the countryside a murderer runs loose. Chabrol like the master that he is suggests more than he tells. The viewer is given a rich assortment of things to meditate upon and many interesting paths to follow but the atmosphere of the film remains the real allure of this perfectly structured study of two lives. The atmosphere is created with music, excellent cinematography including some astounding long views of the mountain valley at different times of the day, and those interiors with the cave drawings which are echoed in Stephane Audrans apartment which is lined with prints and paintings. The mystery at the heart of this is the mystery of human nature. if you love Chabrol there is no more essential film in his catalogue than this one. If you love French film this was called "the most important french film since the liberation" by Le Figaro and if you just love film this will become a savoured gem in your collection."
Inevitably, Bad Things Happen
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Helene Daville (Stephane Audran) is the school mistress in Tremolat, a quiet village in the Perigord region of France. She's a confident, attractive woman who had a love affair ten years ago and who now has no desire to become enmeshed again. Popaul Thomas (Jean Yanne) is the village butcher. He spent 15 years in the army serving in Indochina and Algeria. He's seen things he doesn't care to talk about. At a wedding they meet and become friends. He is strongly attracted to her, and brings her presents of choice cuts of meat. She likes him, even cares for him in a way, but resists anything more intimate. Then young women are found butchered in the region.

This really isn't a mystery movie and it isn't a tedious psychological drama. The way in which these two people are drawn to each other is at once curious and intriguing. Is Helene a woman who will put herself in danger because she is able to feel so few other things? Is Popaul simply a man who wants more than he has or is he a serial murderer? If he is a murderer, on what levels is he guilty? How deep are the feelings and complexities within Helene as, at one point, she keeps hidden a piece of evidence that could point to the murderer?

I found the movie consistently involving but not one that had me either guessing or emotionally engaged. Audran and Yanne both give outstanding performances. Audran's character seems cool and in control, but she unexpectedly shows deeper feelings, especially when she is dealing with the students in her charge. Yanne looks a little like 80 per cent Mel Gibson and 20 per cent Andy Kaufman. Popaul comes across as an entirely competent man, able to handle whatever might come his way. But at the same time there is a wounded vulnerability about him that can create uneasy feelings. And for old car fans, Helene Daville drives a Citroen 2CV, a model no longer made. It was the French equivalent of the old VW, cheap to buy, reliable, and easy to fix if anything went wrong. It's so ugly a car it has great style.

I thought the movie was involving and well worth watching. The DVD transfer, while not bad, could have used some work."