Le beau Serge (1958)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Reunion Films  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

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.