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Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Collection
The Film (Cop au Vin)
The Film (Inspector Lavardin)
The Film (Madame Bovary)
The Film (Betty)
The Film (Torment)
The Video (Overall)
The Audio (Overall)
The Supplements

SUMMARY

Five films from French auteur Claude Chabrol range from detective crime dramas to tragic stories of self-destructive women Including his adaptation of Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' and the harrowing 'Betty.'

Claude Chabrol was the first of the Cahiers du Cinema critics who launched the French New Wave to release a feature film. Although he was not as immediately innovative as his piers or didn’t garner as much acclaim, Chabrol would go on to be the most prolific of the group and would outlast all of them as well. This collection from Arrow Video, Lies and Deceit: Five Films from Claude Chabrol, stretches from the director’s mid-1980s to mid-1990s period, featuring the films Cop Au Vin (1985), Inspector Lavardin (1986), Madame Bovary (1991), Betty (1992) and Torment (1994).

The first two films in the collection, the Inspector Lavardin films, cover one of Chabrol’s favorite themes in his films, the crime thriller. But like everything with Chabrol, they are not paint-by-numbers detective crime films.  In Cop au Vin, the death of butcher Filiol in a small provincial French town provokes an investigation by Inspector Lavardin (Jean Poiret) into local young man Louis (Lucas Belvaux) presumably because he and his mother did not want to sell their home to Filiol and his partners for their business venture. Chabrol doesn’t introduce the Inspector until the halfway point of the film, more satisfied to linger on the absurdities of the French bourgeoisie. The second film, Inspector Lavardin, is again a rather unsubtle look at the bourgeoisie, as Lavardin (again played by Jean Poiret) arrives in a town to investigate the death of a notable member of the town who shows up dead, naked with the word “pig” written on his body. Lavardin’s investigation takes a turn when he realizes one of his suspects is a lover from his past.

From these two films, the collection moves on to one of Chabrol’s other obsessions, gender politics and tragic women. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (with the title character portrayed by a classically beautiful Isabelle Huppert) is the story of a middle-class woman who marries a doctor who takes her to a small, rural town to live and she dreams of a more splendid life in Paris. Her fantasies lead her to adultery and financial ruin. Betty (title character portrayed brilliantly by Marie Trintignant) is a drunken, self-destructive woman who has been forced to sign away the rights to her children and is now on a destructive path of drinking and sexual liaisons and finds herself being parented by a middle-aged alcoholic and her boyfriend. Finally, Torment is ostensibly about a married mother of two (Emmanuelle Béart) trapped in an abusive relationship, but Chabrol slightly shifts the perspective of the film to focus on the cringy, obsessive, abusive, out of touch with reality husband Paul (François Cluzet).

These are all wonderful examples of Chabrol’s filmmaking. His strength doesn’t lie in the flashy, innovative camera techniques or in radically changing the way a story is told. His strength is in the subtle playfulness with narrative, unexpected twists of character development, and his uncanny understanding of class and gender. His style mixes the innovations of the French New Wave with the classic Hollywood Golden Age for a more accessible style of filmmaking, but one that is all his own. These five films are all must-see films, with Betty arguably being the strongest.

The Video

This Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol collection comes with new 4K restorations of Madame Bovary, Betty, and Torment. All five films are presented in their original 1.66:1 aspect ratio in AVC 1080p encodements. Although only three of the films have new restorations, all five looks excellent. Cop Au Vin starts things off looking very crisp with a nice layer of grain and then the set moves on to Inspector Lavardin another film rich in detail, crisp grain structure, excellent colors, and nuanced shadows. The remaining three films are all consistent in look with these first two films, with the final film, Torment, having the most vibrant color palette. It’s not oversaturated in any way, but there are more splashes of color and a little more ‘pop’. These films all look very organic and satisfying to watch. These are what I would call reference in every way.

The Audio

We get the original monaural audio mixes for Cop au vin, Inspector Lavardin, Madame Bovary, Betty, and Torment in LPCM 1.0 and the original stereo mix for Torment in LPCM 2.0. The mono mixes sound very good. They are clean and intelligible with good natural dynamics. The stereo mix for Torment has very narrow stereo imaging and could almost be mistaken for a mono mix at times, but also sounds just as clean, balanced, and intelligible as the other mixes.

The Supplements

Arrow has loaded this collection with new audio commentaries, an 80-page booklet with new essays on the films, and gorgeous new artwork in the collectible packaging. The new commentaries are wonderful, conversational, and help you learn a lot about both Chabrol and his films. I particularly like the commentaries from Kat Ellinger. A special treat included are the select scene commentaries by Chabrol himself.

  • LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
    • 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by film critics Martyn Conterio, Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Sam Wigley, and archive material.
    • Limited edition packaging with newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella.

Disc 1 – Cop Au Vin

1.66:1 AVC 1080p

French LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English

Supplements:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Ben Sachs
  • NEW Ian Christie on Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:12:34)– Film historian Ian Christie looks back at his on-stage interview with Claude Chabrol at the National Film Theatre in 1994 and reflects on Chabrol’s extraordinarily productive career.
  • Claude Chabrol at the BFI (1080i; 01:14:35) – The 1994 interview of Claude Chabrol at the National Film Theatre in the UK with film critic and historian Ian Christie.
  • Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (1080p; 00:03:13)
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:21:43)
  • Interview with Claude Chabrol, Jean Poiret, and Stephane Audran (1080i; 00:29:37) – This 1985 episode of ‘Special Cinema’ from the French language Swiss TV Channel RTS, features director Claude Chabrol and Cop au Vin (Poulet au Vinaigre) stars Jean Poiret and Stephane Audran in conversation alongside Swiss director Francis Reusser and actress Isabel Otero.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Posters and Stills (1080p)

Disc 2 – Inspector Lavardin

1.66:1 AVC 1080p

French LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English

Supplements:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Ben Sachs
  • NEW Why Chabrol? (1080p; 00:16:07) – In this short appreciation film critic Sam Wigley looks at the life and career of Claude Chabrol, his style and themes, and why he remains essential viewing.
  • Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (1080p; 00:02:46)
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:33:57)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Posters and Stills (1080p)

Disc 3 – Madame Bovary

1.66:1 AVC 1080p

French LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English

Supplements:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
  • NEW Imagining Emma: Madame Bovary on Screen (1080p; 00:16:04) – A brad new visual essay by film critic and historian Pamela Hutchison about the many cinematic adaptations of Gustav Flaubert’s classic novel Madame Bovary.
  • Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (1080p; 00:02:30)
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:37:58)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Posters and Stills (1080p)

Disc 4 – Betty

1.66:1 AVC 1080p

French LPCM 1.0

Subtitles: English

Supplements:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
  • NEW Betty, from Simenon to Chabrol (1080p; 00:16:15) – A brand new visual essay by film critic, historian, and expert on French Cinema Ginette Vincendeau.
  • NEW An Interview with Ros Schwartz (1080p; 00:15:21) – Ros Schwartz was the English interpreter who appeared on stage with Claude Chabrol at the National Film Theatre in 1994 when he was interviewed by Ian Christie. She is also the translator of numerous novels, many by Georges Simenon, including Betty. Here she discusses the process of translation and Simenon more generally, revealing the many ways in which Simenon and Chabrol were such a perfect match.
  • Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (1080p; 00:02:57)
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:32:21)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Posters and Stills (1080p)

Disc 5 – L’Enfer (Torment)

1.66:1 AVC 1080p

French LPCM 2.0

Subtitles: English

Supplements:

  • NEW Audio Commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas & Josh Nelson
  • Introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (1080p; 00:03:15)
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol (1080p; 00:39:24)
  • Chabrol on Henri-Georges Clouzot (1080p; 00:11:44) – An archival interview in which the director talks about Henri-Georges Clouzot and his previous unfinished version of the film.
  • Interview with Marin Karmitz (1080p; 00:25:48) – An archival interview with Marin Karmitz who produced almost all of Chabrol’s feature films from Cop au Vin (Poulet au Vinaigre) in 1985 onwards and was responsible for bringing Henri-Georges Clouzout’s original script for L’Enfer to Chabrol in an effort to see the film finally made, having been famously abandoned during production in 1964.
  • Theatrical Trailer (1080p)
  • Posters and Stills (1080p)

The Final Assessment

This is a marvelous set of Chabrol films from Arrow Video. These five films are powerful, wonderfully acted, and gorgeously mastered. As always, Arrow has also provided a set with an abundance of bonus features and heavy collectability given the beautiful artwork. Buy this one if you love French films and Claude Chabrol.

Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol is out on Blu-ray February 22, 2022 from Arrow Video


  • Studios & Distributors: MK2 Productions | Arrow Video
  • Director: Claude Chabrol
  • Written By: Claude Chabrol | Henri-Georges Clouzot | Jean Ferry | Gustave Flaubert | Dominique Roulet
  • Run Time: 557 Mins.
  • Street Date: 22 February 2022
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: French LPCM 1.0 | French LPCM 2.0 Stereo (Torment)
  • Subtitles: English
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Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol (Blu-ray Review)Five films from French auteur Claude Chabrol range from detective crime dramas to tragic stories of self-destructive women Including his adaptation of Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' and the harrowing 'Betty.'
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