Chabrol's greatest film; the 'lost' new wave masterpiece
TUCO H. | Los Angeles, CA | 11/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Wow! How great that this masterpiece of a film, unavailable on video for so long, is finally out on both video and DVD. AWESOME! FANTASTIQUE! If you like French New Wave films, don't even think twice before buying this, IT'S ONE OF THE BEST and definitely the best film of Chabrol's career, in my not so humble opinion."Les Bonnes Femmes" is the 'lost' new wave film that's easily on the same level with "Breathless," "Shoot the Piano Player," and "Cleo from 5 to 7" yet completely unlike any of them. Chabrol is playing around with genres here, exaggerating for effect. He straddles the fence between comedy and tragedy for the entire film, veering this way and that whenever it serves his purpose: to paint an allegory of absurd modern existence through the soul of 4 modern young French females (circa 1960 but just as valid today 40 years later). The surreal modern music at the beginning clues you in, and the magnificent final scene with the empty, tragic eyes of the girl finding her only happiness when a man asks her to dance brings it all together beautifully. I saw this at the Nuart in LA and I didn't want to leave the theater after watching it twice in a row. As disappointing as Chabrol's films had been to me over the years, this one was a jackhammer of a surprise. The Hitchcock elements are there but they don't dominate and straitjacket everything else. It's funny, it's tragic, it's bizzare, it's a hundred things all that once and balances all the elements successfully. It's a film that has to be seen, its effect is visceral and poetic, very hard to describe in traditional 'movie' terms.This film defines the "New Wave" aesthetic, which to this day, some forty years later provides a standard for Quentin Tarantino types to strive for. Films like these can only be directed by masters who have the nerve and audacity to bend genres to their whim and speak their ultimate truth through the nature of the medium itself. And no film is a better demonstration of Chabrol's credentials as an artist and master of the medium than "Les Bonnes Femmes."5 stars for the film itself but 2.5 stars for the tranfer and the annoying
fact that the folks at KINO don't even give you the bare minimum option of
removing the subtitles; all they give you is 14 chapters to click to and
that's it. It's a fine transfer as far as the picture quality goes
throughout, except for the final two chapters which all of a sudden seem to
be undergoing a 'light rain' in the form of some very annoying visible
vertcal thin lines on the picture. Also, the image letterboxing is
undermatted and you can clearly see this on the very first shot when half the
'M' on the last name of the producers HAKIM goes off the screen. I have no
idea where KINO got the 1.85:1 aspect ratio from that they declare on the
box. The film itself is around 1.66:1 aspect ratio (if I remember correctly)
and as their own obvious slightly undermatted letterboxing shows. The sound
quality, like on most cheaply made new-wave films of this period, is a cheesy
mono and barely passable.
An underrated New Wave gem!!! Chabrol's coolest film!!!
C. Burkhalter | 01/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite Kino's typically blah presentation of this early Chabrol film, this DVD is worth the money. There are no features to speak of on this DVD (I mean it, none - unless you count chapter selection), but Kino managed to get a pretty alright print of the film. It looks downright gorgeous until the last ten or fifteen minutes, when little slash-like tracers pepper the screen (looks like rain), although the picture clarity remains strong. "Les Bonnes Femmes" is a fantastic film. I was really blown away. It hit the theaters of Paris around the same time as "Breathless" and many of the other New Wave splash-makers. Like those films, it shows strong influences of Hawks, Hitchcock, and other Hollywood directors. Also like those films, "Les Bonnes Femmes" is set in a less glamorous Paris, but without exploiting it for its seediness. The dark street scenes look beautiful through the camera of cinematographer Henri Decaë, who is also the director of photography on such notables as "Le Samourï," "The 400 Blows," "Bob le Flambeur," and many other fine films.In addition to having a good deal in common, stylistically, with the early films of the likes of Truffaut, Godard, Demy, and Rivette (and with the Hollywood auteur-films revered by those names), "Les Bonnes Femmes" reminded me a great deal of early John Cassavettes films. I couldn't say whether or not Chabrol had seen "Shadows" by this point, or if Cassavettes cared for "Les Bonnes Femmes," but I think there is a real kinship between these films in terms of the handling of dialogue and acting. At least *I* think so.The ending is a real conundrum for me. (SPOILERS COMING! Don't read on if you haven't seen "Les Bonnes Femmes" yet!) As soon as Jacqueline was united with motorcycling beau, I could tell right where the film was taking us. Why? Because Chabrol so heavily quotes "Nights of Cabiria" in the final portions of the film. But anyways, what do we make of the film's ending? Some argue that Chabrol is offering grim truths of the realities that such girls face (Jacqueline's case being an extreme example), and that Chabrol is suggesting that these girls deserve much better. That seems a bit tough to swallow to me, given the film's closing shot, which depicts a new girl - seemingly more socially conservative - enjoying the good life, dancing with a dapper-looking gentleman in a tux. I've heard the final scene described as hopeful, which to me seems bizarrely off-base. How can a viewer feel that this girl is safe after we saw what happened to Jacqueline? And maybe that's the point. Although I don't think the film lends itself well to a definite or concrete reading, I feel very strongly that the final scene (with the new girl) gives the film an extremely moralistic close. We go from our good-times girls - who as we see get killed for their good times - to a proper, feminine, and committed society girl who seems to possess all of the world's promise and happiness. What I do not know is whether this moral epilogue is meant to be preachy or ironic. But I digress.... In sum, "Les Bonnes Femmes" is a fantastic film. It is easily accessible, has a wealth of unexpected surprises in store, and is a fairly effective social commentary. And I think the film is far more complicated than it lets on."
Chabrol's warmest, yet most clear-eyed, masterpiece.
darragh o'donoghue | 02/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chabrol's career is often seen as moving from the naturalism of his early films to the extreme stylisation of his great mid-period. It's not as simple as that, but in 'Les Bonnes Femmes', Chabrol achieves a balance between the two that he has rarely equalled. The story of four shopgirls and their social lives has all the plotless and poignant banality of realism, while the closing third, with its move from Paris to the country, its seducer-cum-motorbike-riding-devil (reg. no.: 666), talking about the Creator, its little boys called Balthasar, and its vision of Hell/Limbo bespeak a more Cocteau-like world of mythology and religion. But there is Cocteau too in the framing of Jacqueline in the shop window, while chabrol's filming of treacherous nature later on is uncommonly vivid. Although his least typical film, 'Les Bonnes Femmes' is also his most lovable, and seems to get richer with the years."
Early New Wave Masterpiece
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 06/23/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film I think captures the excitement of New Wave film making as good if not better than any other example I can think of. First of all the film begins right in the middle of the action as two girls leave a party and begin to walk home. On their way home amid street noise and night life two men pick the girls up. One girl goes home alone. The other girl goes home with both guys. Bold beginning for any movie but especially bold for 1960. The plot is loose and it really is not a film with a strong plot line nor a particularly admirable structure rather it is a film about moments and few films of the early sixties boast as many memorable ones as this. Those moments seem very real and spontaneous and capture perfectly what the new wave film makers were trying to capture. Even today the strip tease scene for instance is highly charged and full of energy that has rarely been captured by any other film maker. After this film Chabrol evolved rapidly into a French version of his idol Alfred Hitchcock. Here Chabrol is not making one of his mysterys or suspense thrillers that he would later become famous for but those elements are not altogether missing from Les Bonnes Femmes either. Fascinating film to come back to for anyone interested in Chabrol or the New Wave in general."