Chabrol often made this point in his 70s films, his angriest by far, which breach subjects like sadomasochism (Just Before Nightfall), drug addiction (La Rupture), open marriage (Une Partie de Plaisir), and terrorism (Nada). And yet Chabrol’s direction became increasingly refined during this decade, approaching the Hollywood genre filmmaking that he praised as a critic in the 1950s. Dave Kehr, in his original Reader review of Violette, called it “Chabrol in his restrained and responsible mood.” I agree with that assessment, but only so far: there’s still plenty of rage beneath the surface of this film. This rift between mood and theme points to Chabrol’s deceptively casual late period, which starts roughly in the mid-80s with movies like Cop au Vin (1985) and Masques (1987) and continued right up to his death in 2010. These films are as easy to digest as paperback mysteries—which their stories usually resemble—but they’re often thematically dense, building on ideas that had been stuck in Chabrol’s craw since his 20s. I could probably watch one of them every week.reunite with Chabrol numerous times, compared their relationship to that of a father and daughter. It’s ironic that one of the movies’ most bitter satirists of family life would spend his last three decades amid such domestic bliss. Having depicted so many awful (if not murderous) families, perhaps he knew exactly what to avoid.
I’m surprised that no one in Chicago has attempted a Charbol retrospective in the 18 months since his passing. He’s by far the most accessible of all the French New Wave directors, and with roughly 50 features to his credit, there’s no shortage of material for a series (if not two or three). In looking forward to the May revival of Violette, here's hoping that other Chabrol screenings are soon to follow.