French Filmmaker Claude Chabrol Dies At 80

Claude Chabrol was one of the original instigators of the French New Wave. Like Godard, Truffaut and Rohmer, he started as a film critic. He went on to make thoughtfully successful films — often thrillers — about human relations, betrayal and murder.

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Director Claude Chabrol, a pioneer of the French New Wave, died yesterday in Paris. His films explored the dark corners of French respectability. Chabrol was 80 years old.

NPR's Neda Ulaby has this remembrance.

NEDA ULABY: Claude Chabrol is sometimes credited with directing the very first film of the French New Wave, "Le Beau Serge."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LE BEAU SERGE")

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (As character) (Speaking foreign language).

ULABY: It's about a young man who returns to his backwater village after 10 years in Paris. His interactions with an old friend and a teenage seductress are raw and etched in danger.

Chabrol had a light touch when it came to guilt, sin and sexual ambiguity, some of his favorite themes, as he told NPR in 2003.

CLAUDE CHABROL: (Through Translator) The subject matter is, of course, very serious. There's treason, incest. But I think that today, the best way to approach such themes so the audience can take them in is to lighten the tone to lessen the weight of what's being told dramatically.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (As character) (Speaking foreign language).

ULABY: Stories of mystery and suspense that looked a bit like documentaries and grappled with Marxist politics, moral depravity, death. Chabrol admired Alfred Hitchcock, and the former film critic even co-wrote a book about his American idol.

Chabrol made a movie starring Anthony Perkins, of "Psycho" fame, in 1967.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM)

Unidentified Woman #1 (Actor): (As character) If you're very clever, there might be a little present for you.

ANTHONY PERKINS: (As character) You know, I've never really liked little presents.

ULABY: Chabrol made well over 50 films, including a number with actress Isabelle Huppert: "Madam Bovary," "The Story of Women," and the creepy psychodrama "La Ceremonie."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LA CEREMONIE")

Unidentified Woman #2 (Actor): (As character) Ah, la la...

ULABY: About an unsettling friendship between two resentful working class Frenchwomen. Claude Chabrol said he was not pessimistic about people in general, only the way they live.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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