Claude Chabrol June 24, 1930 - September 12, 2010
“Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence. Intelligence has its limits while stupidity has none. To observe a profoundly stupid individual can be very enriching, and that’s why we should never feel contempt for them.” - Claude Chabrol
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The fabulous French film director Claude Chabrol died in Paris on September 12. He was 80 years old. In a filmmaking career which spanned more than fifty years and around seventy films for cinema and television, Claude Chabrol was one of the most highly regarded and prolific of French film directors.
Widely credited as the founding father of the French Nouvelle Vague movement, Claude Chabrol (June 24, 1930 - September 12, 2010) is responsible for a body of work that is as prolific as it is boldly defined.
A master of the suspense thriller, Chabrol approached his subjects with a cold, distanced objectivity that has led at least one critic to liken him to a compassionate but unsentimental god viewing the foibles and follies of his creations. Inherent in all of Chabrol's thrillers is the observation of the clash between bourgeois value and barely-contained, oftentimes violent passion. This clash gives the director's work a melodramatic quality that has allowed him to drift between the realm of the art film and that of popular entertainment.
One of the founders of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) movement, Chabrol began his filmmaking career in 1958 as the director, writer, and producer of Le Beau Serge. Modeled after Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, the film charted the visit of an ailing city-dweller (Jean-Claude Brialy) to his hometown, where he is reunited with his childhood friend (Gérard Blain), who is now a self-pitying alcoholic. Their transference of personal guilt, and then, in the words of Chabrol scholar Charles Derry, "exchange of redemption," gave audiences an initial taste of the deeply-psychological situations Chabrol would continue to examine with chilly objectivity throughout his career, and established him as an important new talent.
Towards the end of his career, Claude Chabrol showed a late flourishing, returning to themes that are characteristic of his oeuvre: the insidious venality of the bourgeois milieu and the perversity of human nature. His best films from this era include the trilogy that comprised La Cérémonie (1995), Merci pour le chocolat (2000) and La Fleur du mal (2003). His last film was Bellamy (2009), a thriller featuring Gérard Depardieu. During this period, Chabrol continued working for French television, his last work being episodes in the anthology series Au siècle de Maupassant.
His legacy is an impressive body of work that has justly earned him the reputation of one of France’s finest and best-known filmmakers. Although Chabrol never received a César or a Palm d'Or, he was highly celebrated at various film festivals all over the world.