THIS MAN MUST DIE (Que la Bête Meure)(director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: story The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake/Paul Gégauff; cinematographer: Jean Rabier; editor: Jacques Gaillard; music: Pierre Jansen; cast: Claude Chabrol; cast: Michel Duchaussoy (Charles), Jean Yanne (Paul), Caroline Cellier (Helene), Anouk Ferjac (Jeanne), Marc Di Napoli (Philippe Decourt), Louise Chevalier (Mme. Levenes); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: André Genovès; Allied Artists Pictures; 1969-France-dubbed in English)
“A great villain performance by Jean Yanne.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Claude Chabrol’s (“Le Boucher”) complex psychological revenge melodrama This Man Must Die is adapted from Nicholas Blake’s thriller novel The Beast Must Die. Along with his regular co-writer Paul Gégauff, they explore the dark nature of a normally peaceful man who by chance awakens his dark instincts when he loses control of his sense of being. When children’s writer Charles Thenier’s (Michel Duchaussoy) only son, an 8-year-old, is killed in a hit-and-run accident while leaving a Brittany seaside beach by a speeding black Mustang approaching from the opposite direction, the father becomes obsessed to find the killer and to murder him. He also begins a diary where he notes his violent reactions.
Charles travels to Paris to meet television actress Helene Lanson (Caroline Cellier), whom through a fantastic set of coincidences and lucky breaks has learned that she was in the car. Thinking she was the driver, he begins a love affair with the fragile woman to find out for sure if she was the killer. When he finds it is her brother-in-law Paul Decourt (Jean Yanne) who drove the car, he’s relieved because he’s fallen in love with her. But he keeps up the story of wanting to meet her family without letting her in on his real intentions. He discovers Paul owns the auto repair shop that fixed up the car after the accident. Now believing Paul is the killer, Charles befriends his son Phillipe Decourt (Marc Di Napoli) to learn more about him. It seems Paul is a rotten guy and his entire family despises him (except his own rotten mother), and Phillipe despises him so much he wants him dead for his own reasons. Charles manages to get invited to the family’s seaside home in Brittany in order to finally get his revenge, but this is a Chabrol film and things such as revenge don’t move along that easily.
It plays out as a chilling study of bourgeois guilt, more about the hunter’s relationship of love and hate than as a pure thriller. Its suspense and denouement is very much like a first-class Hitchcock thriller if you can overlook some flaws (for example: the victim’s living mother is never involved in the story). Yet it differs and even improves on Hitchcock, as its characters’ emotions are more affectingly revealed. Jean Rabier’s outstanding photography of the raw Brittany coast establishes the proper atmosphere. A great villain performance by Jean Yanne and a great vulnerable romantic one by the sweet Caroline Cellier, adds much to the film.
REVIEWED ON 1/28/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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