Butcher, The by stdepue


									“The Butcher,” (“Le boucher”) (1969) is one of the best-known films of French director
Claude Chabrol, (THE CLAUDE CHABROL COLLECTION), one of the leading lights
of the French school of filmmaking known as the new wave (le nouvelle vague); he just
passed quite recently. It’s in full, gorgeous color, set in the lush, highly fertile,
mountainous region of Perigord, France, and, aside from perhaps some clothes that look
odd to a contemporary eye, has hardly dated at all. It’s a cerebral, rather abstract
drama/thriller, built along thoughtful, slower, European lines rather than fast, fast, fast
American; still, it clocks in at a taut93 minutes, and is considered to show the strong
influence of Alfred Hitchcock, thriller director par excellence (THE ALFRED

Elegantly beautiful Stephane Audran (LA FEMME INFIDELE), Chabrol’s reel- and real
life muse, plays Helene, headmistress of the local elementary school, who lives above her
shop. She is thin as a stylish woman should be, high of cheekbone, dressed in clothes
that are evidently the height of contemporary chic, with her hair done by Carita. She
loves the school’s children and has good times with them. Nevertheless, she has never
gotten over a bad previous relationship, and is repressed – and lonely. She finally,
haltingly, begins an unlikely affair with the mysterious Popaul (Jean Yanne:
INDOCHINE ). He has recently returned from the army and Vietnam to the village in
which he was born and raised, to take over his father’s butcher shop, which he too lives
above. He is dour and working class, not particularly handsome, considered beneath her
in village society; yet makes himself useful to her, gives her prime cuts of meat, paints
her quarters. He becomes, in fact, her primary adult relationship – she really has no one
else in her life --nor does he. However, soon local women turn up gruesomely
slaughtered, in sadistic Jack the Ripper style. It appears that a serial killer has come to
the vicinity, and Helene must begin to suspect the butcher.

The countryside, and the children, have been photographed with great affection and
clarity. In addition to its truffles, mushrooms, and plentiful harvests, Perigord is also
known for its colorful prehistoric cave paintings, and we see them too. The original,
atmospheric score is by Pierre Jansen. Director Chabrol does a good job of building
tension that mounts as Helene is forced to reach heart-breaking conclusions. It’s a
powerful film that is likely to stay with you for some time.

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