He’s moved to join the despised Parisian ‘media circus’ having smelled fresh blood in Ludivine Sagnier’s honest-hearted, less socially favoured weather girl, who he subjects to a series of ‘free-love’ humiliations and abasements in his upmarket brothel. Meanwhile, the unfortunate woman is assailed, in the equally threatening second half of a destructive pincer-movement, by the manic attentions of idle, arrogant, unstable, fatherless – and puritan – millionaire Paul (Benoít Magimel) intent on marriage and possession.
An immaculate script, written with his long-term collaborator Cécile Maistre, reinvents the celebrated 1906 White murder case as a barbed anti-French-establishment anti-fairy tale (Sagnier’s weather girl is named Deneige – ‘snow’). Beautifully lit and crisply shot by Eduardo Serra, and directed with a confidence and seeming ease that stems from (and quotes) some 60 years of post-New Wave cinematic mastery, Chabrol’s latest comedy of manners is a minor stylistic and tonal triumph.
Eschewing explicit moral condemnation in favour of a scabrous Buñuelian cool, humanised by a marvellously affecting central performance by Sagnier, and surrounded intriguingly by satellite performances which play riskily and amusingly with the edges of self-parody, this is one of Chabrol’s most elegant, acerbic and heartfelt entertainments in years.