Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Savoir-Faire

Mark Shivas interviewed Claude Chabrol for Movie, No. 10, published in June 1963.

MS: Les Bonnes femmes is perhaps your most "symmetrical" film.

CC: Symmetrical? From the symmetrical point of view it's symmetrical!

MS: In the montage or what?

CC: In my last version there was a final quarter of an hour of flashes of people in the street leaving their work between six and seven. That was cut. At the outset it was more symmetrical. The whole thing came full circle.

MS: Most people either think that Les Bonnes femmes is a masterpiece, or they're violently against it.

CC: I wanted to make a film about stupid people that was very vulgar and deeply stupid. From that moment on I can hardly be reproached for making a film that is about stupid people. I don't think that it's a pessimistic film. I'm not pessimistic about people in general, but only about the way they live. When we wrote the film the people were, for G├ęgauff, fools. It was a film about fools. But at the same time we could see little by little that if they were foolish, it was mainly because they were unable to express themselves, establish contact with each other. The result of na├»vety, or a too great vulgarity.

People have said that I didn't like the people I was showing, because they believe that you have to ennoble them to like them. That's not true. Quite the opposite: only the types who don't like their fellows have to ennoble them.

MS: But the cinema is an art of identification and that makes it annoying for the spectator. And that is perhaps the reason for the film's failure commercially.

CC: As the film shows vulgar people, who explain themselves instinctively without any kind of mask, so spectators and critics talk about "excess." But the girls aren't shown as idiots. They're just brutalized by the way they live. They're simple girls who are impressed by savoir-faire, by people who do things, tricks and conjurors for example. Maids and shop girls love this sort of thing. The poetical side doesn't really interest them. You see much more grotesque things going on every day than you do in Les Bonnes femmes. Actually it wasn't a group of girls in the film. In effect it was one.

Les Bonnes femmes is the one I like best of all my films. I like Ophelia too, but I prefer Les Bonnes femmes.