The Flower of Evil

If you can figure out all the intricate and incestuous family backstory of this domestic melodrama by Claude Chabrol, there's a certain amount to appreciate, though most of it's more cerebral than emotional. Caroline Eliacheff, a child psychiatrist who worked with Chabrol on The Ceremony and Merci pour le chocolat, both of which I found more enjoyable, collaborated on the script with Louise Lambriches and Chabrol. The present-day plot circulates around an anonymous broadside delving into the Vichy family connections of a woman running for mayor in a town in Bordeaux (Nathalie Baye)—a catalyst recalling the poison-pen letter in Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1943 Le corbeau—as well as the budding romance between her daughter and stepson, protected by a sympathetic aunt (Suzanne Flon), and the growing estrangement of her philandering husband (Bernard Le Coq). This kept me absorbed, but I was less than fully satisfied at the end. In French with subtitles. R, 104 min.

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