He was a leading director of the French New Wave, but that doesn’t tell you much about the hugely prolific Claude Chabrol. He was frequently compared to Alfred Hitchcock but that tells you even less. I’m not even close to an expert on his work, but I can safely describe Chabrol as a crafty writer-director who specialized in films that shared plot elements with the mystery and suspense genres while deliberately not partaking of their usual pleasures. It’s fitting, therefore, that the late director’s final film has a murder mystery plot and pays tribute to Georges Simenon’s beloved Inspector Maigret but never feels like a murder mystery, which is both the best and worst thing about it.
In his first ever film with Chabrol, the omnipresent, 60-something Gerard Depardieu stars as Bellamy, a famed detective who attempts some time off only to be accosted by an intrusive stranger (Jacques Gamblin). The man asks for his help exonerating him from the killing of a homeless person. The problem: he admits that he really did intend to murder the vagrant as part of an insurance scam. Bellamy welcomes the distraction. He is much less sanguine about another interloper, his obnoxious and troubled younger half-brother (Clovis Cornillac) who intrudes upon his quality time with his beloved and sexy wife (Marie Bunel). Like I said earlier, don’t come to a Chabrol film expecting a conventional thriller. If a wry but serious look at life and death is up your alley, however, “Inspector Bellamy” is worth investigating.
Even given my low information preview Thursday night, there really weren’t any big surprises this Halloween weekend as the seventh installment in the “Saw” series, but the first in 3D and therefore logically entitled “Saw 3D,” extracted a healthy but far from huge sum from audiences. The amount was an estimated $22.5 million for Lionsgate if you believe Box Office Mojo and the Playlist, or $24.2 million if you believe Nikki Finke and Anthony D’Alessandro. D’Allesandro, as usual guest/co-blogging with Anne Thompson, also tells us that it really does appear that 3D drove this film to its modest success, with 92% of tickets being sold for “digital hubs,” which I assume translates into 3D screens.
I wonder if that means the film will pay a commensurate price in home video for at least as long as home 3D remains rare. It’s also worth noting that the $20 million budget — modest by Hollywood standards but large by horror film standards — is double that of the prior films and the take is about $10 million below the opening weekends of the series at its peak. Still, making back your budget on opening weekend is never bad.
“Saw 3D” merited a B- on Cinemascore and apparently gave series fans what they want (misery, and lots of it, I gather), though their numbers be diminishing. Now that some of them have finally seen it, what critics want, however, is for the series to end with the film currently getting drubbed by all but one scribe on Rotten Tomatoes. EW‘s Owen Gleiberman‘s more positive review is less a good review and more a bit of a confession — even the gore hardened critic had to turn away from the screen at one point or risk becoming physically ill — and a rumination on whether it’s even appropriate to enjoy a movie that sounds so invested in human pain that it should never have been allowed anything remotely short of an NC-17. (Which should not be seen as punitive or a a box office kiss of death, but let’s not open that can of worms right now, except that I just did.)
Moving right along in a relatively slow weekend with competition for people’s time heavy from the holiday, the election, and maybe even Jon Stewart’s rally, last week’s much less physically aggressive horror hit, “Paranormal Activity 2,” endured a very usual second-week horror drop of just under 60% that still left enough for an estimated $16.5 million in the #2 spot. The leggy action-comedy “RED” was #3 with an estimate of $10.8 million and change. And “#4 “Jackass 3D” is predictably sinking like a stone at $8.425 million. However, it started at such a profitable point it actually crossed the $100 million mark in its third week. There are no tears at Paramount.
In limited release, the week’s two highest per-theater takes was as art-house as art-house gets. The single theater showing “Waste Land,” a documentary about Brazilian trash-gatherer/artists, earned a hefty $11,600 estimate over it’s weekend. Meanwhile, the two venues final thriller directed by the late Claude Chabrol “Inspector Bellamy” starring Gérard Depardieu, raked in a very healthy estimated $11,200. This one is on my list.
Two notables passed away yesterday, each of whom deserves more than a mention.
Claude Chabrol was the member of the French New Wave most commonly compared to Alfred Hitchcock, though he arguably influenced most of the directors in the movement to a greater or lesser extent. I’m not sure how this happened, but I can barely remember seeing anything by Chabrol, though I know I’ve seen at least one or two of his acclaimed movies at some point, even if I can’t name them specifically.
Anyhow, if the embed below doesn’t cure my cine-amnesia, it does make me want to cure my shameful filmic omission. Yes, this trailer is entirely in French but, believe me, this is the kind of work where you don’t need to understand a single word (and I barely do).
The web’s master Chabrolian, Ray Young, has a great remembrance up and MUBI has a lot more.
Kevin McCarthy was a highly reliable, stage and movie actor with some notable film credits, including playing Biff in the film version of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” and scads of TV work — he has over 200 credits on IMDb. Still, as this very short E! obituary indicates, he’ll forever be associated with one particular film classic which, at the time, didn’t appear to be much more than another B science fiction flick. How little we know.
Compared to that other famed desperate housewife of world literature, Tolstoy’s sympathetic Anna Karenina, Emma Bovary is, well, kind of a…word that I’m too well brought up to use. Especially as portrayed during Isabelle Huppert’s perfectly minimalist performance, she is more than a little superficial, unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and horribly unable to asess the consequences of her own actions. On the other hand, she’s no Paris Hilton, by which I mean she is still very recognizable as an actual human being, all to similar to anyone one of us (her creator, author Gustav Flaubert famously declared, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi!”). Still, the flavor of the story is dry – almost satirical. So, France’s ultra-prolific master of ultra-dry melodramas and tales of suspense, Claude Chabrol, makes perfect sense as the writer-director to bring Flaubert’s revered, frequently filmed novel to the screen. This 1991 production takes a worm’s eye of the tale, which has Emma coldly marrying a goodhearted but deadly dull doctor (Jean-François Balmer) simply to get out of the house. Bored literally to tears, she cuckolds him with a cold-blooded womanizer (Christophe Malavoy) and a seemingly more goodhearted law student (Lucas Belvaux), while literally spending the good doctor and herself to destruction. Yes, this is an evergreen story with a contemporary ring to it – and Chabrol’s cool, dispassionate, and not merely cynical eye is an appropriate counterpoint. This is no tearjerker, but it’s also impossible to stop thinking about this underplayed tragedy of a family destroyed by pretension, materialism, and self-involvement, with innocent victims all around.