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The Other Claude Chabrol

Claude ChabrolClaude Chabrol 

Wednesday, August 15------The title of the latest film series at the Museum of Modern Art strikes one as somehow.....wrong. THE OTHER CLAUDE CHABROL? Could there be such a thing? Chabrol is one of the most prolific and consistent French directors of the past half-century. Well into his 70s, he continues to come out with at least one film per year, and his notoreity and influence continue unabated, long after his Nouvelle Vague contemporaries have either bitten the dust or become obscured in the margins of experimental filmmaking. Chabrol, sometimes referred to as the "French Alfred Hitchcock" because of his penchant for psychological thrillers, has actually worked in almost all film genres (a Chabrol western? not likely, but not impossible either).

Well, MoMA has decided to present a survey of the great director's lesser-known short and feature-length works, many of which were made for French television and will be screened in the United States for the first time. The 11-title series, which begins this Friday and runs through August 27, includes the North American premiere of the director’s newest work, the short film CHEZ MAUPASSANT: LA PARURE (The Necklace, 2007), which opens the series on August 17.

Chabrol has directed more than 55 films in the five decades since he emerged among the French New Wave directors with his first feature, the revolutionary LE BEAU SERGE (1958). Within that substantial output are several feature films, as well as works commissioned for French television, that have never before been screened in American theaters. Among the rarities are three films from LES HISTOIRES INSOLITES, a Twilight Zone-like series in which the stories have a surprise twist or moral lesson in their final acts. The series also presents a trio of fils showing the director's affinity for literary texts, which includes adaptations of works by Henry James  (LE BANC DE LA DESOLATION, 1974), Pierre Souvestre (L'ECHAFAUD MAGIQUE, 1979), and Guy de Maupassant  (LA PARURE).

More classic Chabrol, featuring the detached and dispassionate style of his well-known films are reflected in this largely unseen gems: AU COEUR DU MENSONGE (The Color of Lies, 1998), and DR. M (1990), Chabrol’s reimagining of Fritz Lang’s German Expressionist masterpiece THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE (1933). In the television thriller MASQUES (Masks, 1987), Phillipe Noiret and Anne Brochet star in this complex murder story that betrays the director's fascination with puzzles and games. Directing for television seemed to have a liberating effect on the director, allowing a greater use of close-ups and condensed plots that only heightened the psychological tension of his mousetrap stories.

If you think you have seen all of Chabrol, make your way to MoMA over the next two weeks to round out the filmography. For more information, log on to the Museum's website:

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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