Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Story of Women|
Actors: Isabelle Huppert, François Cluzet, Nils Tavernier, Marie Trintignant, Lolita Chammah
Director: Claude Chabrol
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
From acclaimed director Claude Chabrol (La Cérémonie, Merci Pour Le Chocolat) comes the compelling true story of working-class housewife Marie (Isabelle Huppert- The Piano Player, 8 Women), who performs illegal abortions i... more »
Abortion in Nazi-occupied France
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 01/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Claude Chabrol's stark and unsentimental masterpiece about the last woman to be executed in France--she was guillotined for performing abortions in Nazi-occupied France during World War II--forces us to see a side of war not often depicted. What does a woman with two little children do when her country is occupied by the brute forces of the enemy? How is she to find enough to eat, to buy the increasingly scarce and costly necessities of life? How is she to find joy in life? Women often turn to prostitution during such times, but Maire Latout does not. Instead she aborts the foetuses of the prostitutes and of other women impregnated, often by the Nazis. In a sense this is her "resistence." However she prospers and takes up with a Nazi collaborator. In the process she reduces her husband to frustration and humiliation.
Isabelle Huppert as Marie Latout is mesmerizing in a role that allows her talent full latitude. She is clear-headed and sly as a business woman, warm and ordinary as a mother, cold and brutal as a wife, childish and careless as an adulteress, resourceful and fearless as an abortionist, and unrepentant as she awaits the executioner (foreshadowed, by the way, by her son, who wants to be an executioner when he grows up). Francois Cluzet plays her husband Paul, and he is also very good, especially at rousing our pity. Chabrol makes it clear that both Marie and Paul are victims, not only of war, but of their divergent natures. Paul wants the love of Marie, but she wants only a man that represents success and power, a man who is clean-shaven, not the menial worker that he is. Marie Trintignant is interesting and convincing as a prostitute who becomes Marie Latout's friend and business associate.
While abortion is indeed "Une affaire de femmes" this film is about much more than that. No doubt the title is there to emphasize Charbrol's point that men really do not (did not then, and do not now) really understand abortion and why it is sometimes a horrible and abject necessity. When Marie is taken to Paris for a show trial she exclaims to a woman in jail with her, referring to the court that will pass judgment on her, "It's all men...how could men understand?" We can see that men really can't, and that precisely is what this movie is all about: showing us just how horrible pregnancy can be under the circumstances of enemy occupation.
A secondary story here, not quite a subplot, is Paul's story. What does a man do when he and his children are dependent on a woman who doesn't love him, a woman who rejects him and even goes so far as to arrange for the cleaning woman to sleep with him? It is not only Marie who humiliates him, but it is the defeat of his country, the easy surrender to the Nazis that has so reduced him. This is made clear in a scene late in the film between two lawyers who voice their shame as Frenchmen in a time of defeat.
What Paul does is not pretty (and I won't reveal it here), but so great is the provocation that one understands his behavior and can forgive him."
Peter Shelley | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 08/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Isabelle Huppert won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival for her delicate performance as Marie LaTout, said to be based on the true story of Marie Louise Giraud, who was guillotined in occupied France as an abortionist and profiting from the earnings of prostitutes. Perhaps no other director presents Huppert as well as Claude Chabrol, which explains why he likes to cast her so often. He frames her sad beautiful face in closeup to remind us of Garbo, though Huppert lacks Garbo's exquisite physical and spiritual languor. Chabrol's spare treatment of the tale underlines the hypocrisy of the execution, rationalised under the name of "moral restoration of the State" when the French were actively collaborating with the German's persecution of the Jews. The narrative also has a strong feminist stance, since Marie is a passive innocent, who sees her actions as helping other women with unwanted pregnancies, and rents her home to a prostitute because she is a friend who represents a woman who was taken from Marie for being Jewish. In prison she points out men cannot understand what she has done, and all the jury are men. Marie's tragedy reminds me a little of Madame Bovary (a later effort by Chabrol and Huppert) since she has ambition yet is stifled by her marriage to a man she does not love. We forgive her infidelity since she is so loving to her two children, and because she even arranges another sexual partner for her husband. In response to the latter extraordinary offer, he expresses his gratitude by reporting her to the police. Chabrol gives us some clever forbodings - a goose beheaded at a fair, Marie's son wish to be an executioner, Marie being a singer, her husband's cutouts hobby. I also like the predominance of blue in the colour scheme to show the glumness of Vichy apartments and the Paris prison, the use of rain, and the restraint in the abortion sequences. And while Huppert's singing voice may not be great it is a delight to see how happy it makes her. Special mention is made of the music by Matthieu Chabrol, reminiscent of Faure."
Goes to places that Vera Drake leaves untouched
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Claude Chabrol's Une Affaire de Femmes/Story of Women, based on a real-life miscarriage of justice, is a surprisingly even-handed film that steps aside from cheap emotionalism to present the good, the bad and the ugly sides of its abortionist protagonist without resorting to easy judgements a la Mike Leigh and Vera Drake. It's not a cry for or against abortion, merely offering the facts to the viewer to make up their own mind. Huppert's character is amoral in the purest sense of the word: she's not a crusader but a capitalist, doing favors and letting out her spare room to whores not out of principles but because she can make a good living out of it. More than that, she enjoys the role reversal and power it gives her as she becomes the breadwinner, keeping her husband (Francois Cluzet excellent in what could have been a nothing role) out of the way and out of her bed while she openly pursues other men. Only once does she stop to consider the moral consequences, but the moment quickly passes and it's back to business as usual. One side-effect of this is that the film never moves you, rather it engages you, but it manages to do so on many different levels.
It's not really a film about abortion but about sexual inequality and the corrupt patriarchical 'morality' of the Vichy government and the way they visited their own sins upon the population in the name of redeeming the nation's surrender through eliminating 'moral weakness.' But in this case it manages to deal with multiple themes and a more convincing look at human nature - Marie is no idealised heroine, but that still doesn't justify her fate. The fact that Chabrol is surprisingly even handed and refuses to take moral sides only strengthens the film - this is a filmmaker on top of his game and with enough confidence in the material not to feel the need to make special pleading. There are weaknesses to the film, but they pale compared to its strengths, not least his unfussy and visually economic portrait of an occupied nation in denial of both its defeat and its own hypocrisy and weakness. As the film makes chillingly clear, the defeat gave the French the perfect opportunity to take revenge upon themselves.
The Region 1 NTSC DVD includes a good selection of extras - scene-specific commentary by interviews with producer Marin Karmitz and Francis Szpiner and the original French theatrical trailer."
The 'Story' of Marie-Louise Giraud.
G. Merritt | Boulder, CO | 06/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the true story of Marie-Louise Giraud (the last woman to be executed in France by guillotine), nouvelle vague director Claude Chabrol's 1988 French drama, Story of Women (Une affaire de femmes), tells the compelling story of Marie Latour (Isabelle Huppert), an abortionist in World War II France. Huppert and Chabrol also combined their talents in La Ceremonie, Comedy of Power, Merci Pour le Chocolat, and Madame Bovary. Marie is a poor, working-class housewife with two children in Nazi-occupied France, who aspires to be a singer. When her neighbor Ginette (Marie Bunel) discovers she is pregnant, Marie performs an amateur abortion and is compensated with the gift of a record player. After returning from the war, Marie's shell-shocked husband Paul (Francois Cluzet) attempts to coerce Marie into conforming to his notion of a housewife. Marie resists, and turns her attention to her prostitute friend, Lulu (Marie Trintignant), and to the business of abortion. To feed her poor family, she knows there is money to be made in illegal abortions. Whether they are housewives or prostitutes, she doesn't judge her clients. Eventually she is arrested and convicted as an enemy of the state. In confronting the subject of abortion and portraying Marie as a victim of her corrupt society, Chabrol's poignant film travels the same emotional depths of last year's critically acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile). Isabelle Huppert's performance is mesmerizing. She is perfect in the role of Marie Latour.