Cop Au Vin
John Farr | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"More aptly titled "Poulet Au Vinaigre" (Chicken With Vinegar) in France, this quintessential Chabrol whodunit is indeed a pungently sour portrayal of the deadly intrigues that can hatch in seemingly close-knit, placid communities. Extremely well-played, with Poiret a stand-out as Lavardin, a savvy professional who can be courteous one minute, brutal the next. A must for mystery fans.
One of Chabrol's better films from the '80s
Alex Udvary | chicago, il United States | 10/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When we think of great Claude Chabrol films we rarely turn to his work from the 1980's. The '80's were a difficult time for Chabrol. In fact so were the late '70's. For whatever reason Chabrol was losing his audience, though many times the public unfairly damned him. His "Innocents with Dirty Hands" was entertaining as is this film, "Cop Au Vin".
"Cop Au Vin" follows in Chabrol's tradition of attacking the upper class and exposing their secret desires, showing them to be less than appealing. But makes this film a little different from some of the others is how Chabrol injects some dark humor. In some ways the film is comparable to Chabrol's latest film "Comedy of Powers".
The film follows Louis Cuno (Lucas Belvaux) a teenager who lives with his invalid mother played by Stéphane Audran (Chabrol's ex-wife), who makes his life very difficult, not just because she is his sole responsibilty but because she constantly accusses him of fooling around with women.
Louis, who works as a mailman, is fooling around with one of his co-workers, the beautiful Henriette (Pauline Lafont, who died at a tragically young age of 25).
Meanwhile a group of people (played by Jean Topart, Jean-Claude Bouillaud and Michel Bouquet) want to buy the Cuno's house, who do not want to sell. The men harrass Louis daily trying to scare them into selling. So Louis decides to fight back and mysteriously people start dying. This leads Inspector Jean Lavardin (Jean Poiret) on the case.
It's at this point in the film things start to pick up. Now it starts to take on the more tradition detective genre but because it's Claude Chabrol the movie has an intelligence we do not find in American cop and robber films. Chabrol does this by actually creating characters whom we come to care about and creating situations that involve us but there's also a sense of mystery lurking underneath everything. We feel there is more to the story than is going on. We can expect some twist and turns.
While the '80's were considered a downfall for Chabrol, some feel he didn't start to rebound until he made "The Story of Women" in 1989, "Cop au Vin" actually shows Chabrol still had some tricks up his sleeve. I wouldn't go as far as saying this is one of his best films, but, it is entertaining enough to keep you interested through-out.
Bottom-line: One of Claude Chabrol's better films from a decade most people consider dismal, the '80's. Solid storyline with a good amount of mystery and interesting characters make this film work.
A fine, murderous black comedy by Claude Chabrol
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is an elegant, satisfying and murderous black comedy by Claude Chabrol, who some call the French Hitchcock. This does a disservice to both men. Chabrol in my view can be far more disturbing than Hitchcock (see La Ceremonie) and is more varied in the type of films he makes. Hitchcock's duds are seldom just dull, however, but sometimes Chabrol's, in my opinion, are. Both are excellent in their own styles and techniques.
Poulet au Vinaigre (Chicken in Vinegar) tells us about a mother, Madame Cuno (Stephane Audran), confined to a wheelchair in a large, aging house, and her son, Louis (Lucas Belvaux), who delivers mail in the town and is under his mother's thumb. It's also the story of the attempt to take the house and its property for a land speculation deal by three citizens of the town. There is the lecherous, slithering lawyer with a beautiful mistress, the unscrupulous doctor with a rich wife and a fondness for plaster reproductions of life-size sculptures and the brutal, loud-mouth butcher who makes threats as easily as he cuts chops. Madame Cuno, whose husband disappeared 12 years previously with a younger woman and who was crippled in a fall down the stairs just before he left, absolutely will not hear of selling. Her son takes the mail these three men receive and, with his mother, steams the letters open to find out their secrets. Madame Cuno dominates her son, fearful he'll leave her. He acquiesces but may have intentions of his own. Certainly the luscious post teller he works with has intentions toward him. Then people start to die. First to go is the butcher in a car crash. Sugar was found in the gas tank. Then the doctor's wife is not to be seen. He tells everyone she is in Switzerland. Before long the lawyer's mistress, who was a friend to the doctor's wife, has gone missing, leaving only a short, type-written note.
Into this malicious and puzzling mix appears Inspector Jean Lavardin (Jean Poiret). Lavardin looks at life through the eyes of a skeptic. He can be pleasant enough when it serves him, but he doesn't mind using a punch in the stomach, a dousing in a wash basin filled with water or a break-in to an apartment. "I'm paid -- not very much -- to nose around, spy, pester people," he says. "You understand?" He's not squeamish. He can try to slip a ring on the gruesomely burned hand of a two-day-old corpse. And he has his pleasures. Each morning since he was eight he has had the same breakfast, two fried eggs, yolks runny and sprinkled with paprika. He only eats the yolks, dunking his bread in them with enthusiasm.
Chabrol takes us through this story with assurance and amused observation. Just how much of a mental case is Madame Cuno and what might she be capable of...or has been capable of? When she suspects her son has a girlfriend, at dinner she silently and obsessively cuts up and eats her baked tomato, then explodes. "No dessert for you," she cries to him. "You hate your father! You're a deserter!" Is her son really the the dutiful young man? He's certainly capable of malicious mischief. What will be the affect on him if that beautiful bit of fluff he works with succeeds in winning him away from his mother for a lunch hour at her apartment? And, of course, there is the matter of the bodies. Just where are they and who is who?
Jean Poiret does a masterful job as the cynical Inspector Lavardin. The inspector is not intimidated by anyone, especially the puffed-up bourgeoisie of this French town. He's no one's fool. You'd be making a mistake if you fall for his friendliness. Poiret captures this mixture of cynical amusement and readiness to use force.
Chabrol, in my view, accomplished two things with great skill. He disguised what the murders might be about until half way through, during which time he caught me up in who these characters were and how they related to each other...then he threw up a smokescreen that could be logical and might have led in another direction. I found myself smiling at the way he fooled me. And he played fair with the clues and implied motives.
But why did the U.S. distributors stick Cop au Vin on as a title? I suppose because it's a bad pun on Coq au Vin, chicken stewed with wine, as something more easily understood than the original title, Poulet au Vinaigre (chicken stewed with vinegar). I think they missed the point. Inspector Lavardin brings a healthy dose of vinegar, not wine, to this French dish. The DVD transfer looks just fine and the subtitles are easy to read. There are a couple of small extras but nothing of any special interest."