[Last Film I Saw] Violette (1978)

Violette poster

English Title: Violette
Original Title: Violette Nozière
Year: 1978
Country: France, Canada
Language: French
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Claude Chabrol
Writers:
Odile Barski
Hervé Bromberger
Frédéric Grendel
Jean-Marie Fritère
Music: Pierre Jansen
Cinematography: Jean Rabier
Cast:
Isabelle Huppert
Stéphane Audran
Jean Carmet
Jean-François Garreaud
Lisa Langlois
Fabrice Luchini
Jean-Pierre Coffe
Zoé Chauveau
Bernadette Lafont
Maurice Vaudaux
François Maistre
Greg Germain
Henri-Jacques Huet
Jean Dalmain
Dora Doll
Rating: 6.3/10

Violette 1978

It is an atrociously unlawful act depicted in Chabrol’s sensational melodrama, the based-on-a-true-story type (a murder case in 1933) which would usually generate a slew of horrific feedback in the social news commentary, about an adolescent girl poisons her parents in order to back up her gold-digger boyfriend to elope together.

What makes the film so gravely provocative is the entire scheme of Violette (Huppert) seems so juvenile and wanton, the viciousness is inexorable and beyond any logical solace. Violette is a lackadaisical, apolitical and promiscuous teenager, although at the age of 24, Huppert is unbecoming to pass for the role, but Chabrol adroitly restyles Violette with a more precocious patina, the dexterous transition between the good girl veneer when she is with her parents and the motel-hogging and man-hunting hussy potently incites Huppert’s chameleonic escapade, each and every single frame zooms in on her unprovoked aloofness and obtrusive sex appeal. She is perpetually indulging in her own pathetic realm, sneers at her parents’ clumsy intercourse and disgruntled at their ordinary petit bourgeois trivia, she is in an impetuous situation to find an egress, but the man in her dreams is a major disappointment as viewers all being well-informed in advance, it is money he is on the lookout for. The affair is doomed to futility, in some sense Violette knows it fairly well, but it is the defects (the egocentric selfishness, deep-rooted misanthrope and diabolic cruelty) in her character blind her sight, poison her mind and abet her into carrying on the abhorrent action.

After the murder plan goes as expected and the lousy gas-accident cover-up, Germaine, the mother (Audran) survives the poison, it is not a detective story after all, instead, it is an awkward moment of facing the truth, but Violette’s vituperative accusation to her late father (Carmet) in order to justify her motive shatters all the expectation if there is any mercifulness left in her, she is an archetype of the malevolent side of human nature, an anomaly which defies all the logical interpretation, she and Dr. Hannibal Lecter can be an adorable couple!

Stéphane Audran, whom I just appraised for her delicate performance in BABETTE’S FEAST (1987), is astounding here as the overbearing but doting mother of Violette, she is the one we can mostly project our compassion on, yet, we might also prompt to question her tutelage, perhaps she is at least partially responsible for the decadence of her sole daughter, how Violette’s double act (constantly stays in motels and hangs out someone the parents have never met) can blatantly evade a mother’s instinctive nature is a shade bemusing, not to mention the intaking of unknown medicine for the sake of hereditary syphilis, at least verify with the doctor first (and in this case, both parents are too unmindful)!

New to the canon of Claude Chabrol, the pick of VIOLETTE may not be the optimum starter, the disrupted narrative never fully register any excitement barring a bitter aftertaste and shocking values of the subject matter, its foremost merit is to grant Huppert a stage to unleash her glacial pulchritude, which one can appreciate from every unyielding close-up on her, and comfortingly augurs an eminent career for her as crème de la crème of the French cinema, her screen magnetism is inherent.

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