“Francois, listen to me – you’ve got to do something. Help me!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
In characteristic New Wave style, the narrative in Le Beau Serge is rather loose, with more of an emphasis on characters, setting, and philosophical contemplation than straightforward action. While it’s never made clear exactly why Francois is so determined to “save” his friend, it’s hinted that he may be driven by a sentiment of “there but for the grace of God…” — indeed, rural life in the film is depicted as narrow and limited, with sexy Marie (Lafont) channeling all her energy into the pursuit of men, and Serge giving up his dream of an architecture career for life as a husband and truck driver. Does Chabrol intend for us to pity the lives of these “simple” characters? It’s hard to tell, but the film’s baroquely allegorical ending — which posits Francois as a sort of Christian martyr — seems to label the townsfolk as somehow needing salvation. Despite its narrative flaws and ambiguities, however, Le Beau Serge remains an oddly compelling character study, one which clearly demonstrates Chabrol’s passion, talent, and dedication to the craft of filmmaking.
Note: Chabrol returned to the theme of country-versus-city in his next film, Les Cousins (1959), in which country-boy Blain comes to stay with his more urbane — and infinitely less sympathetic — cousin (Brialy) in Paris.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: