Considered by many as the first of the French "New Wave" films, Le Beau Serge has lost some of its power over the decades but is still a worthy and at times fascinating film. Claude Chabrol's first film, Beau doesn't look or feel as if a first-timer were writing and directing it. There's a confidence and an assured feeling that only falters toward the end; prior to that, Beau has the feeling of a picture that is playing by its own rules and inventing a few of them as it goes along. It actually is more structured than it initially suggests, but it disguises that structure with an ambiguity and a naturalness. This makes the ending, which comes across as forced and contrived, all the more disappointing. But this late in the game failing can't erase what has come before; it's also true that many respond quite positively to the ending, even if it feels it has been clumsily put into place. Chabrol also gets a bit heavyhanded in his Christian symbols and allegories, but this too is a minor flaw. The auteur is immensely aided by his cinematographic team of Henri Decae and Jean Rabier, whose stark, bleak work has a strange beauty and perfectly captures the despair at the heart of the film. Future Chabrol stalwarts Gerard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy turn in evocative, forceful performances, and the supporting cast effectively captures the feeling of people trapped in their lives.