Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fragile Social Hierarchy

La Cérémonie (1995) - Chabrol
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Two of the France's top actresses star as a couple of social miscreants slowly wrecking havoc on upper-class family is perhaps the most delicious Chabrol thrillers I've seen so far. Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) is a perfect maid hired by Mme. Lelievre (Jacqueline Bisset) who needs help in taking care of her remote big mansion in a seaside town. She was a former model now running a gallery. Her husband and two children live in relative comfort and luxury. But there is something odd about Sophie that the Lelievres quite put their fingers on. She befriends with another odd ball in town, a nosy post-office clerk, Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert). They acknowledge each others' secrets in which they got away with crimes and starts to hang out, watching TV together and giggle at others expenses. Sophie's another big secret is that she is illiterate. Which isn't really a problem, but to her it is a big deal that no one can know.

Already taken a dislike of Jeanne, M. Lelievre, disapproves Sophie hanging out with her. After Sophie threatens their young daughter (Virginie Ledoyen) because her illiteracy was discovered, he fires her, giving her a week to vacate the premises. Our troublemaker couple decides to take action.

Huppert in pigtails and miniskirts, is a riot as a chatty, morally ambiguous Jeanne while Bonnaire is quietly unsettling as Sophie. The Lelievres are perfectly respectable- their children well behaved and understands the follies of social hierarchy. They just don't know how fragile that hierarchy is, that it can be shaken at any time when you least expect. It's really fun film. La Cérémonie is quite a different animal in terms of bourgeois satire than, say, Haneke's Funny Games. Chabrol is not interested in spoon-feeding everything for us in terms of character's back story. But the characters, however slightly drawn, thanks to Bonnaire and Huppert have real depth and humanity behind it. Fun times!

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