Boucher, Le / Butcher, The (1970)

[Note: The following review is of a non-Guide for the Film Fanatic title; click here to read more.]

“I’ve seen a corpse or two — their heads in the wind, cut in half, mouth open…”

Butcher Poster

Synopsis:
In a small French town, a worldly schoolteacher (Stephane Audran) meets a recently returned veteran (Jean Yanne) at a wedding, and the two quickly become friends. Although Audran resists anything more than platonic love, Yanne longs for romance; meanwhile, mysterious murders shake the town, and Audran starts to suspect her friend.

Genres:

  • Claude Chabrol Films
  • French Films
  • Serial Killers
  • Teachers
  • Veterans

Review:
Peary is clearly a fan of French director Claude Chabrol, given that he lists most of his titles as “Personal Recommendations”; thus, it’s strange that he neglected to include this well-received pseudo-Hitchcockian murder mystery in his book. The Butcher stars Chabrol’s (then) wife and frequent leading lady, Stephane Audran, in one of her most affecting roles as a love-weary teacher who clearly enjoys the company of her new male friend (her soul mate?), but resists anything more than platonic companionship; Jean Yanne is equally impressive as “the butcher”, a troubled veteran who Audran desperately hopes is not responsible for the recent rash of bloody murders plaguing the town. While I’m not particularly enamored by Chabrol’s sensibility (none of his films are titles I’d return to on a repeat basis), The Butcher is memorable enough to recommend as must-see viewing for any serious film fanatic.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stephane Audran as Mlle. Helene
    Butcher Audran
  • Jean Yanne as Popaul the Butcher
    Butcher Popaul
  • Effective use of provincial French locales near the Lascaux Caves
    Butcher Caves
  • The “cherry scene”
    Butcher Cherries
  • The creepy “blood sandwich” scene
    Butcher Blood

Must See?
Yes, as one of Chabrol’s signature films.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Boucher, Le / Butcher, The (1970)”

  1. A must.

    Although Chabrol was directing his own script, how he tells the story is what puts this one over. Very little is actually ‘shocking’ in this crime thriller. We see only one victim – briefly.

    Yet the bulk of the film, in its bucolic setting, is t-e-n-s-e. Thanks for that must also go to cinematographer Jean Rabier and (esp.) Pierre Jansen for his unsettling score. But Chabrol is in top form.

    It’s intriguing that the opening scene of the film (on the heels of very eerie opening credits) takes place at a wedding celebration. In retrospect, we will come to realize that the murders, in part, appear to be a twisted reaction to all things joyous.

    One of the film’s most peculiar sequences comes when (the marvelous) Audran takes her students to the cave. On leaving it, she leads them to a precipice for lunch. It’s almost as if she is instructing them about the dangers of life. (As witness how the scene ends.)

    The film’s most touching scene, of course, has Audran explaining to (the strangely sexy) Yanne why she is hesitant to fall in love again.

    But my favorite is the (noted) “cherries in brandy” sequence. The end of this scene is perhaps the film’s most compelling moment. (That, as well as “the door she forgot”.)

    Audran can, of course, be seen in a number of Peary titles, but ffs should not miss her magnificent performance in 1987’s ‘Babette’s Feast’.

    A writer/director himself, Yanne, interestingly, served as producer for (among several other things) the Warhol/Morrissey films ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ and ‘Blood for Dracula’.

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