“Juste avant la nuit” (1971)
If Claude Chabrol is casually regarded as the Gaellic Hitchcock, the too easily accepted comparison betrays a basic misunderstanding of not only the French filmmaker but of the Master of Suspense (Chabrol’s own public adoration of Hitchcock tends to blur critical viewpoints, more so than in Hitchcockian comparisons with the far lesser-case De Palma) While both Chabrol and Hitchcock spend an inordinate amount of attention on the shadier localities of Man’s better nature, the results are far from psychologically (and certainly not aesthetically) complimentary.
One fundamental difference between the two filmmakers is in directorial temperament- the truth of the matter is that Hitchcock’s films have a greater interest in the mechanics of plotting than character, whereas Chabrol’s are immersed in the minutiae of the psychological. In comparison to those of his French counterpart, the Hitchcockian character is a relative cipher, often made charming by the extraneous means of witty banter or fortuitous casting choices. However, in ascribing psychological depth to Hitchcock’s characters, one, more often than not, encounters shallow mining, as their personalities are generally defined by reflex reactions to the elaborate mousetraps set in motion by the director; since the majority of his plots are orchestrated to manipulate the players (and by de facto, the audience) as pawns incapable of movement or action independent of the needs of the intricate interlocking set pieces which at the heart of the grand designs of his cinematic puzzles.
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