Jacques Rivette defined mise-en-scene as 'a precise complex of people and decors, a network of relations, a moving architecture of relationships somehow suspended in space' (1954: 44). In the films of Claude Chabrol, the mise-en-scene seems to embrace this definition. On the one hand his near-documentary realism provides a portrait of his subjects that is credible enough to make a social commentary, and thus contribute to what Monaco (1976: 258) refers to as 'Chabrol's landscape'. On the other hand, this realistic 'portrait' is juxtaposed with extra-diegetic elements that reinforce the auteur's presence and perceptions, as well as serving to anticipate the action, as demonstrated in Que La Bete Meure (1969), in which a father looks for his son's killer and subjectivity and objectivity are interlaced. Chabrol also explores the blurring between 'real' and 'imagined' life in Le Boucher (1970), which follows the platonic friendship between a schoolteacher and the local butcher, and her efforts to deal with her suspicion of him as a serial murderer strikes in this quiet village in Sout West France. Chabrol finally uses chronological discrepancies to highlight the unchanging amoral behavior of a politically involved bourgeois family over time in La Fleur du Mal (2003).
[...] Charles, his hero, whose son is killed by Paul's car, is as guilty as the others yet he is the base on which are constituted illusions and the subjectivity of point of view, thus creating a tension between the auteur's distant realism and what Comolli (1969: refers to as scientific waltz of points of view'. Chabrol portrays a working-class 'beast' turned new bourgeois in the character of Paul but he does not comment openly on his environment. Instead, he merely presents an aesthetic of that world. [...]
[...] At the beginning of Les Cousins (1959), the character of Charles is just meeting his cousin Paul, yet the ominous soundtrack foreshadows an imminent drama and gives a clue to Paul's personality, highlighting the tension between the 'good' cousin and the 'evil' cousin. Similarly, in La Fleur du Mal (2003), François is driven away from the airport by his father and the somber soundtrack seems to be a warning sign directed at the viewer. There are indeed many instances in Que la Bête Meure where the viewer already knows what the character should expect. [...]
[...] Here, Chabrol clearly points out the values and morals of the family and the wider bourgeois hegemony with his subjective point of view shots. He seems to use backwards tracking shots, for example moving away from the bed in which François and Michèle, who are step siblings, have slept in, as a way to retreat from the scene and look on. In many ways, he makes sure that if the story escapes the characters, so caught up in the diegetic world of the film, it does not escape the viewer. [...]
[...] Reality in Chabrol, then, is not to be taken quantitatively, as he often represents the same object in various ways and repeats it in a symbolic manner 'La photo est vraiment belle lorsque le spectateur se rend compte après coup qu'il a senti la peau des visages, qu'il a suivi l'heure à laquelle se déroulaient les choses, qu'il a été sensible, au fur et à mesure que le film avançait, à la transfomation de l'atmosphère.Une bonne photo aide à mieux comprendre le film.' His ambiguous perspectives and those of his characters serve to create work that, although steeped in realism, is halfway between the satirical social commentary and the very fictional 'policier' genre. [...]
[...] Combs (1987:232) argues that Chabrol's films 'are as drawn to create perfect worlds as they are disinclined to believe in them', thus highlighting the tension between his use of realism in portraying the bourgeoisie and his disbelief for their inner logic. It is as hard to summaries Chabrol's oeuvre in terms of the inconsistency in quality of his films as it is to synthesize his aesthetic principles. In his book, Comment Faire un Film ('How to Make a Film'), he explains that, The photo is really beautiful when the spectator realizes afterwards that he has felt the skin of the faces, that he has followed the time at which things were happening, that he has been sensitive, as the film advanced, to the transformation of the atmosphere. [...]
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