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Le Beau Serge
Bitter Reunion / Handsome Serge / Die Enttäuschten

France 1958
produced by
Claude Chabrol for Ajym Films, Coopérative Générale du Cinéma Francais
directed by Claude Chabrol
starring Gérard Blain, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michèle Méritz, Bernadette Lafont, Claude Cerval, Jeanne Pérez, Edmond Beauchamp, André Dino, Michel Creuze, Claude Chabrol, Philippe de Broca
written by Claude Chabrol, music by Émile Delpierre, assistant direcotrs: Charles L. Bitsch, Philippe de Broca, Claude de Givray

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After years of absence, terminally ill Francois (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns to his rural hometown - to find it changed, not so much the buildings but the people though.

Especially Serge (Gérard Blian), a guy he once idolized, has taken a turn for the worse. Thing is, he was once forced to marry his girlfriend Yvonne (Michèle Méritz) after he impregnated her, and when the baby died at two months of age, that threw him off the rails. In his way, Francois is in love with Serge, and he wants to fix his old friend's life, but whatever he tries, he only seems to make things worse and actually seems to drive Serge and Yvonne apart. Then he starts a sexual relationship with Yvonne's underage sister Marie (Bernadette Lafont), which seems to be above everything else a substitute action for actually being as close to Serge as he wants. Eventually, Marie's father (Edmund Beauchamp), a notorious drunk who's not actually her father which is an open secret, learns about the relationship, forces Francois to confirm he isn't really her father, then goes on and rapes her.

When Francois finds that out, he beats up the father, but somehow can't patch up his relationship with Marie no more, even though she's more than willing to - which is when Serge pitches in, and now Francois knows he has really fucked up.

The next few weeks, Francois locks himself in in his room, then he decides to take positive action for a change, and he makes friends with highly pregnant Yvonne, with whom he has always had a troubled relationship, and who needs a friend because Serge seems to be hiding from her.

Finally, one winter night, she is about to give birth, and she calls Francois for help, who gets her a doctor and gets her Serge ... but while the boy is born and Serge is once again filled with unexpected hope, Francois dies.

 

By and large, Le Beau Serge is celebrated as the film that marked the birth of Nouvelle Vague - but I beg to differ, as the movie simply doesn't have very much to do with later Nouvelle Vague masterpieces inasmuch as it lacks the experimental and often inventive approach of those films. And while it is most certainly a movie that breaks with the tradition of French cinema of its time, and treats risquée topics (closet homosexuality, underage sex, rape), it has much more in common with Italian neorealismo (which had peaked a few years back) than things to come - and thus I would label Le Beau Serge at best a transitional film rather than a movie that started a movement.

That all of course says nothing about the quality of the film, about which I have3 to admit I am of two minds: On one hand, the film is cleverly written, beautifully filmed, and pretty good in portraying rural society, on the other it perhaps overdoes it a bit with its risquée topics, that seem to have been thrown in to poloarize and attract the pseudo-intellectual arthouse crowd, plus the film takes itself too seriously (no traces of Claude Chabrol's later self-irony here) and does feature several lengths it could have done without.

In all, it's an ok drama, but at least in my view neither a milestone and turningpoint, nor a masterpiece or even Chabrol's best film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD