The ancient bacchanalia of the Now, "to each age its pleasures." Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne circa 1961, the fateful proclamation ("Je me vengerai") comes in the wake of a brush between strangers at a sidewalk café. The florid sybarite (Jean-Claude Brialy) declares war on the callow fancy-pants (Charles Belmont) who stole his parking spot, his weapon is a bodacious "miracle": An indoor pyre dissolves to Bernadette Lafont strolling down the street, quite the debauched Modigliani. "For an eye, the face... Let us compose our smile." Between Tashlin and Polanski, Claude Chabrol at his most extravagantly sulphuric. Very much an act of vandalism against the bourgeoisie's sundry "farceurs, fantômes, fantoches, cadavres," with sneezing powder for art galleries and smoke bombs for charity events. And yet, the sharpest knives are reserved for the protagonists, guerilla dandies who cultivate vengeful fantasies only to be rewarded with their first pangs of sadness. (Dress it in Roman togas and adorn it with grinning masks, sterile degeneracy still gets a pie in the face.) Rooms chocked with cages and objets d'art, Stéphane Audran's raven-haired strip, the empty baby carriage hurled down a flight of stairs, a gleaming stream of Daumier caricatures, plus a malevolent foretaste of Jules and Jim. "One must not permit oneself excesses..." Among Chabrol's most abstruse works, yet there it is on Godard's "Six Best French Films since the Liberation." It all ends by the edge of the ocean between disillusion and illumination, with Les Biches not far in the horizon. With André Jocelyn, Jean Galland, Sacha Briquet, Jean Tissier, and Laura Carli. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce