Shades of Gray: “Juste avant la nuit” (1971)


00000justeavantlanuit1        “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 thejusteavant 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 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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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in Alfred Hitchcock, art house cinema, Claude Chabrol, crime, erotica, Film, Film Reviews, French movies, movie reviews, Movies, Mystery, Reviews, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Shades of Gray: “Juste avant la nuit” (1971)

  1. I never found Hitchcock’s characters to be psychologically interesting, but I always enjoyed the complexity of his plots. To me, they were mostly really well done mystery-thrillers. I also liked the cinematography, though I think I liked Mel Brooks’ imitation of it even more.

  2. beetleypete says:

    I prefer Chabrol’s films to Hitchcock. Less showy, and much less hysterical. I also like the way he used the ensemble cast in different films. That said, I could watch Stephane Audran all day, especially in her crowning glory, ‘Babette’s Feast’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • I agree with that observation, but was not always so. In my younger years (during the War of the Roses), I found Chabrol chilly and off-putting, but I would like to think my current appreciation comes from maturity. (I hope it isn’t the flu.) Audran is a treasure. How odd that she isn’t more widely appreciated, at least in the States.

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