Le Boucher (AKA: The Butcher) – 1969
Director – Claude Chabrol
Starring – Stephane Audran, Jean Yanne, and Anthony Pass
The thriller, or mystery as it is sometimes called, is a fantastic genre allowing director, actors, and audiences to give themselves over to the story and let it pilot them where it pleases. Layers of the story pile up, confusing the regular flow of logic, and often need to be reverse engineered to discover the truth. The crime or crimes, central to the story can be simple or horrific, but almost always reveal the uncomfortable, jealous, angry, or violent side of humanity that everyone is capable of, even if only a little. Often times, the genre is so captivating, that the story outshines it’s director or stars…unless of course you make a shitty mystery, like this one.
Le Boucher or The Butcher is the story of an idyllic little town in France where bodies start turning up, staining the picturesque countryside with fear, accusations, and paranoia. As we watch, we begin to suspect the town’s local butcher of being the killer (more than a little because of this film’s clever title).
If mysteries have taught me anything, it’s that the killer is never who you most suspect, and always who you least suspect, right? Apparently, Mr. Chabrol never got that memo. Just as it seems more and more like the butcher is the killer, he turns out to be…the fucking killer. It’s not even a dramatic reveal. It’s just sort of said.
We never really learn anything about any of the characters, nothing of real value anyhow. It hasn’t even been that long since I finished the movie, but I can’t recall either of the main character’s names, and I’m not willing to waste the time to look them up.
Cinema of the late 60’s and on throughout the whole of the 70’s, was a revolutionary time in terms of craftsmanship, storytelling, and editing, but it did give birth to some rather annoying elements of film as well. The heavy reliance on zooming while filming is one of the worst. Camera’s got lighter, and improvements in single lens reflex systems provided opportunities to create lenses capable of achieving great variances in focal length. Unfortunately this meant that long zooms were readily accepted into the visual storytelling language, and this movie uses the technique to death. It is distracting and provides no guidance for what the audience is supposed to be looking at.
The acting is fine by the standards of the French New Wave, that is, non-actors employed to give the story a more realistic quality. This film lacks the immediacy, and growth, and emotional heft of the New Wave movement, however, and manages only to drag on and disappoint.
My impression of this film probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the first disk I got from Netflix skipped so badly that it was unwatchable, as a result, I had to request a second disk and watched the other half a good week after I saw the first. None the less, I don’t think this film could have been saved. Chalk this one up in the “avoid” column, do yourself a favor, and watch something like Seven, The Third Man, Memento, or L.A. Confidential. You’ll be happy you did.