Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)

 “I’m waiting for a special occasion.”

French director, Claude Chabrol is often compared to Alfred Hitchcock–and that comparison seems justified in the 1960, early Chabrol film, Les Bonnes Femmes. This is the story of four Parisian shop girls who spend their days avoiding their grabby boss, staring at the clock, and dreaming of love and romance.

bonnes femmesJane is the boldest of the four girls. She tends to lead the vulnerable, gentle, and more docile Jacqueline. Rita is the envy of the other girls as she is engaged to the stuffy, pretentious Henri. Ginette is secretive about how she spends her evenings. During the day, the girls loll over the counters at the shop, harass any salesmen who come in, and bother the cashier, Madame Louise, with questions about the fetish object she hordes in her handbag.

At night, the girls roam the streets looking for love. The streets of Paris are the happy hunting ground for aggressive and predatory males. Jane’s boldness leads Jacqueline to spend the evening with two men who are clearly up to no good. Throughout the film, a mysterious motorcyclist follows Jacqueline, and she assumes he is a protector.

Many of the scenes portray social occasions with hideous undercurrents just below the surface. I thought the use of masks in the nightclub was quite brilliant, and the scene in the swimming baths chilling. Chabrol’s message is quite clear–women who search for love and companionship may find a little more than they bargain for. The film’s tense atmosphere and sense of impending doom deepen as the story develops. Les Bonnes Femmes is an extremely dark and deeply disturbing film–Chabrol at his best.

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Filed under Claude Chabrol, France

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