Les bonnes femmes (1960)


(director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: Paul Gégauff; cinematographer: Henri Decae; editor: Jacques Gaillard; music: Pierre Jansen/Paul Misraki; cast: Bernadette Lafont (Jane), Clotilde Joano (Jacqueline), Stephane Audran (Ginette), Lucille Saint-Simon (Rita), Claude Berri (Le copain de Jane); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ralph Baum; Kino Video; 1960-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Chabrol’s scathing commentary on bourgeoisie values, complicity and guilt.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the great early films of Chabrol (his fourth feature). Some critics maintain this neglected film is his most disturbing and best. It is a searing look at four Parisian shopgirls who work in an appliance store, Jane (Bernadette Lafont), Ginette (Stephane Audran), Jacqueline (Clotilde Joano), and Rita (Lucile Saint-Simon), whose uninspiring dreams of love and a monotonous routine life overwhelms them. The girls try to do something to break away from their hum-drum existence they feel trapped in. Ginette longs for stardom as a singer in the music halls, Rita craves for security in marriage to a store owner, Jane is a loose woman who pursues a hedonistic existence and, the last, the most sensitive and vulnerable of the girls, Jacqueline, seeks romance with a biker. What is beautiful about the film, besides the cinematography of Henri Decae, is the caring yet brutally unsentimental manner of Chabrol’s direction. He touches on how the world has influenced the girls with so many dreams that are really someone else’s. That murder is part of the bargain comes as a shock, but does provide a fitting ending to Chabrol’s scathing commentary on bourgeoisie values, complicity and guilt.