(director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: from the book by Georges Simenon; cinamatographer: Bernard Zitzermann; editor: Monique Fardoulis; music: Matthieu Chabrol; cast: Stéphane Audran (Laure), Marie Trintignant (Betty), Jean-François Garreaud (Mario), Yves Lambrecht (Guy Etamble), Christiane Minazzoli (Madame Etamble), Thomas Chabrol (Schwartz), Pierre Vernier (The Doctor); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer:Marin Karmitz; New Yorker Videos; 1992-France-in French with English subtitles)

“A melancholy, murky psychological drama adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon by Claude Chabrol.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A melancholy, murky psychological drama adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon by Claude Chabrol. It’s a plotless, talky character study of an alcoholically depressed bourgeois woman named Betty (Marie Trintignant), who first appears as a vic but later we learn is a manipulator who always seems to hurt those who loved her. By the end we learn of Betty’s tale of woe but are not enlightened of much else, except we are privy to eavesdropping on a heart-to-heart conversation by two chic ladies that leads to a surprising conclusion.

Betty is an attractive and well-dressed 28-year-old woman who walks into a Paris bar out of the rain. Drunk, miserable, chain-smoking, she is picked up by a man named Bernard who drives her to a seedy bar in Versailles named “The Hole.” He claims to be a doctor but is really a junkie; Betty is rescued from Bernard trying to poke her with a needle to get out worms from under her skin by Laure (Stéphane Audran, the 49-year-old actress and the former wife of the director), a sympathetic middle-aged woman in the bar, a former nurse who is now a rich widow. Laure offers her a place to stay for the night in her luxury hotel. Laure has her own dark reasons for falling into The Hole as a regular. After Laure gets her cleaned up the next morning, the crest-fallen Betty feels obligated to tell her life story that includes haunting memories of a childhood trauma, of having married the handsome but boring Guy Etamble and stumbled into a wealthy socially prominent family, and then of having upset the family with her whoring and other unbecoming behavior so that they arranged for a divorce and gave her $200,000 francs to give up her children.

But the good-hearted Laure gets blind sided by the irredeemable Betty’s selfish pleasure seeking nature, and stands by while the younger woman steals her lover Mario (Jean-François Garreaud). He’s the handsome proprietor of The Hole. By the film’s end their roles are somewhat altered, Betty is now the predator and Laure the vic.

Though told in an hypnotic manner that held my interest for awhile, in the end the drama failed to be much of anything but a tedious tale presented in a flashback-flashforward technique that remained opaque about a psychological dysfunctional character who is not someone who interested me in the least. I felt as if I was left out in the rain and had nothing to show for sitting through this morbid tale but dissatisfaction.

Betty Poster