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COLOR OF LIES, THE (Au coeur du mensonge)(director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: Odile Barski; cinematographer: Eduardo Serra; editor: Monique Fardoulis; music: Matthieu Chabrol; cast: Sandrine Bonnaire (Vivianne Sterne), Jacques Gamblin (René Sterne), Antoine De Caunes (Germain-Roland Desmot), Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Frédérique Lesage), Bernard Verley (Inspecteur Loudun), Bulle Ogier (Évelyne Bordier), Pierre Martot (Regis Marchal), Noël Simsolo (Monsieur Bordier), Rodolphe Pauly (Victor), Adrienne Pauly (Anna); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marin Karmitz; Kino Video; 1999-France-in French with English subtitles)
“It’s a well-executed but not that exciting psychological thriller in Brittany.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Claude Chabrol (“Cop Au Vin”/”Merci Pour Le Chocolat”) directs in his usual suspenseful and droll way, and Odile Barski turns in the twisty script. It’s a well-executed but not that exciting psychological thriller in Brittany. It covers the usual wide range of motifs for its murder story such as impotency, perversity and jealousy. It plays with its title by throwing against the wall a few caustic and artistic comments about lying, with my favorite one being “The best lie is when you make a liar believe that you believe him.”

It’s a murder story set in the small Breton fishing town of St. Malo. A young schoolgirl is found raped and murdered in the woods. The new female chief inspector Frédérique Lesage (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) makes her chief suspect the mentally fragile failed artist René Sterne (Jacques Gamblin), who was the girl’s private art teacher and the last known person to see her alive after she left his lesson. René’s devoted physical therapist wife Vivianne (Sandrine Bonnaire) supports him despite many of the locals withdrawing their children from his tutoring sessions. Vivianne soon begins a possible affair with the oily, self-important and vain TV journalist Desmot (Antoine De Caunes), the town’s celebrity and a real smoothie with the media. The chief inspector is also interested in Regis Marchal (Pierre Martot), René’s best friend and the plumber and small-time crook, who fences stolen goods and religious artifacts to among others Desmot; he does so because he needs the money to satisfy his young wife Anna (Adrienne Pauly), who also baby-sits for the chief inspector’s young daughter. There’s also a curious pair of elderly shopkeepers (Bulle Ogier & Noël Simsolo), who after a 100 minutes into the narrative become even more curious as we get filled in on these oddballs.

When the murderer of the child is arrested, there’s also the suspicious death of Desmot–that may or may not be from a heart attack. The chief inspector is helped in the investigation by the veteran inspector Loudun (Bernard Verley), who loves Snickers bars and takes it lightly that he was passed over for the promotion to an outsider–saying the town leaders didn’t want to pay him a higher pension since he plans to retire in a year.

The film remains grounded in being a police procedural; its denouement never generates much of a charge to take away the unpleasant chill it passes over this nasty little provincial town.REVIEWED ON 2/11/2007 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”