...a unity of eyes and firelight...

Les Biches

In Film, Reviews on April 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Claude Chabrol, 1968

This picture shares many similarities to Godard’s Le Mepris, particularly in its mischievous study of feminine capriciousness and gender roles, but ultimately is sadder.

The final scenes before the return to Paris reminded me of Brad Pitt asking Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, ‘Do you want to be like me, or do you want to be me?’ Similar to that film, the answer is not immediately obvious, but the conclusion is the same.Again, the subservient member of the duo is forced into a position where he (in this case, she) only has one course of action left through which she can assert her power.

Unlike The Assassination of Jesse James, this discourse of power switching hands is explicitly related to class in Les Biches. Another interesting thing to note in Les Biches is that one’s sympathy lies with Frederique for most of the film – she is intelligent, beautiful, well-mannered and, well, a classy sorta babe. Why is impetuous, childish, manipulative and more than a little creepy.

However, in that final scene, to which we know the conclusion from the start, because of the camera continuously returning to Why’s swinging handbag, it is Frederique’s disregard of another’s life, another’s emotions, her bourgeois disregard of her plaything’s love, her unhidden disgust at Why’s honesty that hit me. Suddenly, I not only knew what Why would do, but willed her on. It became what she must do. And so when she did it, not only Why, but also I was implicated.

A brilliant work.


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