Death and love and women. These are the preoccupations that concern Claude Chabrol in his masterpiece “Les Bonnes Femmes”. Chabrol can be charitably dubbed the French Hitchcock, but whereas Hitchcok was interested in suspense, Chabrol is more interested in moral depravity. “Les Bonne Femmes” is one of his early films, and even here, Chabrol’s obsession with death is evident. But “Les Bonnes Femmes” is concerned with a different kind of death.
It is Paris in the 60’s, on the cusp of the 68 revolution. Sex or at least its doppelganger, love, is in the air. The film circles around four girls, all of whom work in the store store, each embodying an archetype. These girls talk endlessly about love, and the film shows how they will never get it. Their lives are embodiments of a kind of existential death. But these women are the very reason to see the film.
Made in the full blush of the French new wave, there is a documentary feel to the film. The camera, here, unlike in his later film, is a lusty participant to the lives of the women. And the world of 60’s Paris offers many pleasures. Filmed in gorgeous black and white, Chabrol has brought to life, scenes of a lost era. The scenes take place in a dazzling variety of locations: night-clubs, zoos, and swimming pools, where at one point, the camera even dives under water. The camera is as exuberant as the girls are empty, and as the girls purr their way with their rounded French vowels, life in Paris never looked so good.
Come on, how can you say it is near the ’68 riots when it was filmed in 1960? Love is in the air because France in reconstructing and consumerism is high.