EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|VIOLETTE (director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriters: Odile Barski/Hervé Bromberger/Jean-Marie Fritere/Frédéric Grendel; cinematographer: Jean Tabier; editor: Yves Langlois; music: Pierre Jansen; cast: Isabelle Huppert (Violette Nozière), Stéphane Audran (Germaine Nozière), Jean Carmet (Baptiste Nozière), Jean-François Garreaud (Jean Dabin), Guy Hoffman (Judge), Jean Dalmain (Émile), Lisa Langlois (Maddy), Greg Germain (Black Musician), Bernadette Lafont (Violette's cellmate), Bernard Lajarrige (Andre de Pinguet), Jean-Pierre Coffe (Dr. Deon); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Eugène Lepicier/Denis Héroux; Koch Lorber; 1978-France/Canada-in French with English subtitles)|
to arouse sympathy for his heartless protagonist seemed a reach."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Claude Chabrol ("The Cousins"/"The Butcher"/"Nada") directs in a more restrained fashion than
usual, and presents a moody period piece thriller that's based on a
true sensationalized newspaper headline murder case from the 1930s in
Paris. The 18-year-old
Violette Noziere (Isabelle
Huppert) was tried and
convicted in 1934 for the poisoning of her railroad worker father (Jean
attempted murder of her mother (Stéphane Audran, ex
wife of Chabrol). The thriller raises moral, political and social
questions, but never attempts to answer them. Instead it remains tense
throughout, even getting more tense when the child monster is arrested
and makes up damaging lies about her father being a sexual predator,
causing a scandal that puts the family on trial and divides the public (she incredibly became a heroine of the Left
and the Surrealists, who rallied to her defense as a symbol of
liberation from "bourgeois" morals).
Though Chabrol does justice
in chronicling in a detached way the troubled mind-set of the young
murderer, the slice-of-life crime drama is virtually a cold and empty
experience about an unsympathetic character whose character
remains impenetrable; and, furthermore Chabrol's attempt to arouse sympathy for
his heartless protagonist seemed a reach.
It's based on the book by Jean-Marie Fitere, and
cowritten by Chabrol, Odile
Barski, Hervé Bromberger, Jean-Marie
Fritere and Frédéric Grendel. The diabolical character
played with such resolution by Isabelle
Huppert, deservedly earned her a Best Actress award at Cannes.
lives with her respectable
conventional middle-class parents in a cramped Paris apartment, leaving
the teenager no privacy. She detests her folks for being so bossy and
petty and dull. The restless Violette loves dressing up as an adult, as
she leads a secret life whereby she hangs around the Latin Quarter
during the afternoons and picks up dissolute men who give her money for
sexual favors in seedy hotel rooms. When she contacts a venereal disease, she
blames it on hereditary factors and gets her parents to take a supposed
prescription drug ordered by her doctor that is poisoned. It fails to
kill her parents, who are clueless and can't fathom that their daughter
would try to kill them. In the meantime, the supposed innocent school
girl meets one good-for-nothing after another until she finally settles
for a feckless dream-boy wastrel lover, Jean
Dabin (Jean-François Garreaud), whom she plies with expensive gifts and
steals from her family to support him. Violette, in an attempt to be liberated
from her home prison, shoots
for a second attempt at poisoning her parents and succeeds in only
bringing down her father. Ironically, after her arrest, she finds liberation in jail.
Violette is first sentenced
to the guillotine, but then the French president reduces the sentence
to life imprisonment. After serving twelve years, Violette receives a
full presidential pardon in the 1945 post-war period.
Chabrol never makes any
headway with why the uncommunicative and unrepentant teenager had such
a fierce hatred for her parents that she would want to kill them,
except showing she wanted the better things in life that her humdrum
working-class folks couldn't provide. He suggests that maybe she just
snapped because she couldn't stand to be around her nosy and nagging
parents, or maybe she was just bored and was looking for action.
Whatever ... we know little more about Violette than we did before.
REVIEWED ON 7/8/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ