The man with the pipe is dead. Claude Chabrol, the director of “Violette” and “Le beau Serge” and the author of noirish tightly-wrapped thrillers that had movie-goers on the edge of their seat, has passed on. One of the founding fathers of New Wave Chabrol was, like his contemporaries of that time, a film critic for the Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1970s and frequented the Cinémathèque Française. He first became involved in cinema as a boy, however, operating a movie projector in the village he grew up in. Like his hero Alfred Hitchcock, about whom he wrote a book, Chabrol often made cameo appearances in his films. The themes he drew on throughout his fifty-year career were repetitive, but subtly so. He’d cast an amused glance at provincial bourgeois, decipher women with an ironic empathy, meddle with small-time crime and market prodigiously well the ever-recurring theme of inanity, of which he has said, “la bêtise” is so much more fascinating than intelligence … it has no limits, whereas intelligence does.’ In 1959 he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Biennale for “The Cousins,” only his second film.
The decade which he perhaps most influenced came later in life. “Hell” (1994) and “The Ceremony” (starring Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Bonnaire; 1995) were the two marking pictures of that decade—everyone spoke about them.
Chabrol excelled at narratives that were mainstream and could lead to box office success but maintained a certain integrity all the same. In the latter period of his life, however, he wasn’t granted the peppy glamour of the Cesars (the French Oscars) but earned much critical success. His last film, “Bellamy” starring Gerard Depardieu, came out in 2009.
(pictured: Chabrol on the set of “Bellamy”)