Femme Infidele, La (1969)

“Why should anyone just disappear?”

Femme Infidele Poster

Synopsis:
A business man (Michel Bouquet) who discovers his wife (Stephane Audran) is having an affair murders her lover (Maurice Ronet) while visiting his apartment.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “erotic, subtle, meticulously crafted” thriller — one of director Claude Chabrol’s finest films — “fits into no genre” but “draws you in completely”. While it’s “deceptively slow at first”, it remains compelling throughout, thanks in large part to the psychologically complex performances by Michel Bouquet (star of Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi Mermaid) and Stephane Audran (Chabrol’s wife and frequent leading lady). Helene’s (Audran’s) infidelity is revealed subtly, without drama or fanfare — this is a “happily married” bourgeois couple, after all, who enjoy a good life together with their adorable, intelligent son (Francois Moro-Giafferi) in a large Versailles house. Likewise, Charles’ (Bouquet’s) “revenge” occurs unexpectedly — we have no idea (and neither does he) that events will eventually take such a bloody, fatal turn. Perhaps most surprising, however, is Helene’s ultimate response once she learns what her husband has done; according to Peary’s analysis, “Chabrol is stating that bourgeois life is so stifling, so oppressive, and so resistant to change or growth, that it takes no less than an act of murder on one person’s part to shake up things in a positive way.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stephane Audran as Helen Desvallees
    Femme Infidele Audran
  • Michel Bouquet as Charles Desvallees
    Femme Infidele Bouquet
  • Maurice Ronet as Helene’s lover, Victor
    Femme Infidele Ronet
  • A chillingly effective portrait of a bourgeois marriage rocked by infidelity
    Femme Infidele Marriage

Must See?
Yes, as one of Chabrol’s finest films. Remade (though less successfully) in 2002 by Adrian Lyne as Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere.

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One Response to “Femme Infidele, La (1969)”

  1. Yes, a must. Though, surprisingly, I don’t really have too much to comment about it. I thought I had seen this once before but realized, having just seen it, that I hadn’t. So – perhaps, with the newness of it all, I got swept up in it and failed to jot down any observations.

    Even though I can’t say I like every Chabrol film I’ve seen, I tend to be partial to them; he’s (to me) among the most interesting of modern French filmmakers. Generally unlike his contemporaries, Chabrol is interested in character more in terms of how it feeds into plot. That gives his films less of (what I think of as) the ‘liquid’ quality found in newer French films.

    The plot here is well-crafted, very much so. Oddly, it didn’t feel slow to me from the start – perhaps it started its spell on me – and I found it a very tight film. Agreed; it’s among Chabrol’s finest.

    [Sidebar: Whereas I felt from the start that the husband very much loved his wife, I did not at all sense the reverse.]

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