Monday, May 7, 2012

Film Review: Wedding in Blood

"Wedding in Blood"  **** (out of ****)

He appears to be a nice, mild manner gentleman. She is the wife of a respected politician. Yet when they meet they act like savages. Lust overtakes them. They grab each other with a fierce passion. Rip off each others clothes. Their mouths hang wide open, as if they are about to devour one another. So strong are their feelings they are unable to control themselves. To keep an air of dignity about themselves. Their pleasant, respectable facade crumbles. Their animal instincts get the best of them. So begins Claude Chabrol's "Wedding in Blood" (1974).

He is Pierre Maury (Michel Piccoli). She is Lucienne Delamare (Stephane Audran). Both are in loveless marriages. Pierre's wife, Clotilde (Clotilde Joano) has been sickly for years. She never leaves the home. She barely has time to get out of bed. The first time we see her she is afraid Pierre is going to touch her. She yells "don't touch me". That is the level of their lack of interest in each other. The mere idea of her husband touching her makes her shriek out in horror.

Lucienne seems to be an after thought to her husband, Paul (Claude Pieplu). He either has no interest in sex, his wife or both. He is mainly concerned with becoming the new mayor of this small French town. Running for office causes him to go out of town, to Paris, the majority of the time, leaving his wife behind as she takes care of her daughter, Helene (Eliana De Santis) from a previous man.

The film starts off showing us locations from this small town. It appears no different than any other small town. A nice, quiet community. Clean streets, plenty of mom & pop stores, friendly faces, nicely dressed people. You just know something has to be going on underneath the surface.

If you happened to miss the opening credits of the film it wouldn't matter. You would just simply know you are in the presence of a Claude Chabrol film. The ingredients are all here. Upper-class family, corrupt politicians, family secrets, buried/repressed sexual desires and of course, eventually, murder.

"Wedding in Blood" has more in common with noir films such as "Double Indemnity" (1944) and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946) than you might think at first. Pierre and Lucienne decide they cannot go on like this. Hiding in the shadows. Desperately longing to spend time with one another and feel the other's tender embrace. So Pierre gets an idea to murder his wife. But once you commit one murder another can't be far behind. Soon the situation escalates. Things get out of hand. Their problems grow and more action needs to be taken place.

Paul soon begins to suspect his wife is having an affair. You see, in order to win his election, Paul believes he      needs Pierre on the ticket with him. To help balances things out since Pierre is something of a leftist. Pierre spends a lot of time over at Paul and Lucienne's home.

As I have said these are not new situations for a Claude Chabrol film. One of his previous films, "The Unfaithful Wife" (1969) dealt with a married woman (also played by Audran, whom at the time was married to Chabrol) who has an affair. "Wedding in Blood" was made at a time most fans and film critics acknowledge as Chabrol's most successful period. The late 1960s, early 1970s saw Chabrol working at the top of his game. Creating his most memorable films such as "Les Biches" (1968), which I have reviewed, "This Man Must Die!" (1970) and "Le Boucher" (1972) a film which some consider his finest. In these movies, "Wedding in Blood" included, Chabrol is painting some of his most cynical portraits of the upper-class. This time though, Chabrol almost takes a comical approach when he presents these characters engaging in their lustful activities.

Unfortunately "Wedding in Blood" has not secured itself a strong reputation. Now the film is largely ignored. It doesn't help the film had been out-of-print for years on VHS and to this date has not been put on DVD in the United States (though it is available on DVD in the UK). But such is the fate in this country for some of the great filmmakers on the world stage. "Wedding in Blood" is a fine film. Is it Chabrol's best? No. But a worthy film made by a great filmmaker. It isn't has visually gripping as some of Chabrol's other films, "Les Biches" among them, but, the film has the ability to hold your attention.

When the film was first released it was met with a warm reception. It was nominated for the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Gene Siskel placed the film on his top ten list in 1974 and in a review for the "New York Times" Lawrence van Gelder called it "a film of exceptional merit."

If you are able to find the film or buy the DVD available in the UK jump at the opportunity. "Wedding in Blood" is a typical Chabrol film. The work of a master. A man who understands this material very well and has the sure touch hands to direct it.