Le Beau Serge was the first film of French critic-turned-director Claude Chabrol. Though not a murder melodrama, the film is heavily influenced by the works of Chabrol's idol Alfred Hitchcock, Shadow of a Doubt in particular. Ailing city dweller Francois (Jean-Claude Brialy) makes a therapeutic return visit to his home town in the country. Here he visits childhood friend Serge (Gerard Blain), and is appalled to find how far Serge has plummeted into alcoholism and self-pity. The two protagonists indulge in a transference of personal guilt, then an "exchange of redemption" (to quote Chabrol chronicler Charles Derry). Highly influential in the French New Wave movement of the 1950s, Le Beau Serge has something very special to say about the care and nurturing of friendship, especially one that has dimmed with distance and time. Both male stars, as well as leading lady Bernadette Lafont, would continue working with director Chabrol for the remainder of his career.
by Hal Erickson synopsis