For Reel

La Cérémonie (1995)
December 19, 2015, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Claude Chabrol
4 Stars
La CérémonieLa Cérémonie is a remarkably tense thriller, its class tensions mirrored with unexpressed eroticism that eventually finds a lethal outlet. While director Claude Chabrol’s narrative approach to murder is often linked to Hitchcock, Jonathan Rosenbaum has rightly claimed that Fritz Lang’s sense of abstract objectivity is undoubtedly a huge influence on his films. In La Cérémonie, the camera’s relationship to the characters is ever-shifting. When Catherine Lelievre (Jacqueline Bisset) arrives at a train station to greet Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire), she fails to see her on the other side of the tracks. Chabrol shoots the sequence from Catherine’s point-of-view–that is, the audience is allied with what Catherine sees, or in this case fails to see. However, much of the film plays in longer takes, shooting characters from a comfortable distance. Sophie’s interactions with Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert) are often viewed in prolonged medium or long shots, so much so that the psychology of the characters and their rapidly growing friendship is alienating. Had Chabrol relied on frequent shot-counter-shots that showed Sophie’s reactions to specific encounters with Julie, for example, the eventual flourishing of her adolescent side might have been more conceivable for the audience. As it is, the film is disorienting and mysterious, concluding with a final act that is at once improbable and inevitable.