The Essential Claude Chabrol (3 stars)

The Essential Claude Chabrol

(15) 299min

(Artificial Eye)

Few filmmakers deserve an essential collection more than Chabrol, but this is not that. His broad and long career trails from fine early films (Le Beau Serge, Les Cousins) through to the late 1960s peak period (Le Boucher) that won him the moniker of the ‘French Hitchcock’. And then there was the grand late works. With a CV like that, should an essential collection have the less significant Inspector Lavardin (1986) in it? In case you’ve forgotten, this mid-1980s sequel to Cop au Vin is the one where the titular inspector determines to solve a murder in a provincial French town.

1992’s Betty is more justifiable, an adaptation of a George Simenon novel, with Marie Trintignant the eponymous character: a drunk taken in by the widowed, pretty much drink-sodden, Stéphane Audran. Chabrol is rarely a filmmaker to let a good deed go unpunished, and the film focuses on the tension between the two women.

But it is Merci pour la Chocolat (2000) that is vital to Chabrol’s oeuvre. Much of his best work has been with either Audran or Isabelle Huppert, and Huppert plays here the woman with impulses so obscure that even a former husband (Jacques Dutronc), whom she remarries, can’t understand them. The even less essential Volume Two is also out this month and includes The Story of Women (1988) and The Colour of Lies (1999). There are decent extras on both sets.