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La Cérémonie

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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(Jul 27, 2004)
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Editorial Reviews

In La Cérémonie, Claude Chabrol, known as the "French Hitchcock," creates one of his most shocking and unforgettable thrillers. Catherine (Jacqueline Bisset - Day for Night, The Deep) hires the illiterate Sophie as her maid. But Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire - Femme Fatale) soon falls under the influence of the mysterious Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert -The Piano Player, Merci Pour Le Chocolat), and the stage is set for a tale of murder, violence and betrayal. One of the Chabrol's most acclaimed films, and the winner of numerous international awards, La Cérémonie is a masterpiece of suspense.

Special Features

  • The Making of La Ceremonie, a 20-minute documentary featuring Claude Chabrol, Isabelle Huppert, and Sandrine Bonnaire
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Jacqueline Bisset, Virginie Ledoyen
  • Directors: Claude Chabrol
  • Writers: Claude Chabrol, Caroline Eliacheff, Ruth Rendell
  • Producers: Marin Karmitz
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Homevision
  • DVD Release Date: July 27, 2004
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00026L7MW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,814 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "La Cérémonie" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
In the sixties Chabrol was known as the French master of suspense or the French Hitchcock. With 1968' La Femme Infidele & 1969's Le Boucher he was at the peak of his form. he made a few good pictures in the early seventies like La Rupture and Wedding in Blood but his work of the latter half of the seventies and eighties(with one notable exception, Cry of the Owl) was uneven and sometimes just forgettable. Then in the nineties Chabrol made a steady comeback and made what is perhaps the best movie of his career and one of the best films by anyone in the nineties with La Ceremonie. The Hitchcock influence is still there but Chabrol has evolved it into something completely his own. La Ceremonie has a plot which could best be described perhaps as a mystery but there are so many well drawn characters that the film transcends the normal bounds of that genre. Its a first rate drama with three incredible leading actresses. Jaqueline Bisset has never been better or better looking than here as the ex-model and current society wife who hires a mysterious maid with a vacant stare and uncertain past. That maid is played by France's top actress Sandrine Bonnaire and her every move is captivating. Isabelle Huppert plays the pig tailed postal employee who befriends Bonnaire and the two create onscreen magic together. Chabrol's brand of mystery puts character over plot so though you have an intereting plot unfolding you are in no hurry to get there. The wealthy family that Bonnaire works for(Bisset, husband and two children) are each given at least one interesting dimension and subplot line of their own to make this one rich movie experience. A movie you will feast on more than once. Chabrol endings are highly original and you never see them coming so sit back and enjoy with full knowledge you are being entertained by a master.
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Format: VHS Tape
This is a terrifying little thriller about the psychopathy lurking in the most mundane places. Bonnaire is chillingly affectless as an illiterate housekeeper, and Huppert is equally unnerving as an unhinged postmistress. Separately, they wouldn't have done what they did; put together by a horrible accident of fate (or by a malevolent god) they perform a horrible act on a bourgeois family that seems inevitable from the first frame. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the film is that the seemingly innocent family actually unwittingly provoke the atrocity inflicted on them because of the casual cruelty of the class divide between them and the two maniacs. The most famous, horrific scene in the film involves no visible bloodshed at all--it's when Huppert discovers a crucial terrible secret about Bonnaire, and instead of a normal shocked reaction, the two of them giggle like schoolgirls. This is based on Ruth Rendell's novel, "A Judgement in Stone" and while you can quibble about the casting (the two are middle-aged hags in the book, not two sexy, relatively young women as in the movie) it's still a surprisingly faithful adaptation.
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Format: VHS Tape
Based on Ruth Rendell's novel A Judgment in Stone, Claude Chabrol's 1995 film is fascinating and disturbing. Illiterate Sandrine Bonnaire joins the French countryhouse of Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassell as a maid and along the way befriends postal clerk Isabelle Huppert. Chabrol's previous concerns have been about the bourgeoisie exploiting the working classes but Bisset and her family are nothing but kind to Bonnaire so their fate seems cruel and unwarranted. Bonnaire's Sophie is meant to be dim because she eats chocolates and watches TV indiscriminately. We're left to ponder Huppert's character, who is clearly unbalanced and who leads Bonnaire astray. Huppert is Chabrol's favourite modern actress and he rewards her with big closeups. Her Jeanne is funny, wears plaits and chews gum and is dangerously irrational. She has a great monologue in profile about the death of her daughter which she delivers in one take while she drives, knifing away sentiment yet still conveying the sadness in her Garbo-like mask face. It's interesting to see the still beautiful Bisset play a mother of teenage children and to hear her speak in French. You can sense her pleasure in this role and Chabrol let's us see her great legs. Chabrol is too subtle a director to manipulate us with the conventions of the thriller. His soundtrack is bare and the climactic violence leaves us shocked yet not unsurprised. I like the use of colour in the film - Bisset's yellow teacups, Huppert's salmon car, Bonnaire's blue jumper with daisies - and the way the final irony repeats the shock of the murder we have already witnessed.
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Format: VHS Tape
Perfect casting contributes to the intense momentum that Chabrol develops in this archetypal tale (for Chabrol) of upper middle class rude luxe and working class desperation. Sandrine Bonnaire is the soft-spoken girl whom Jacqueline Bisset, the idly rich wife of a well-to-do industrialist, hires as the family's housekeeper. Bonnaire's character is hiding a secret from the family which is gradually revealed.
In the course of that revelation, Bonnaire befriends the town postmistress, brilliantly played by Isabelle Huppert, who is essentially incapable of rendering a bad performance in any work she appears in. Huppert's postmistress is the opposite in character to Bonnaire's wallflower. Brash, intense, and happy to flaunt authority, the postmistress encourages the housekeeper to express herself, to break out of her shell regardless of the secret she wishes no one to know about, to enjoy life even without the wealth that Bonnaire's employers have and that Huppert resents so vehemently.
As the housekeeper comes to trust the postmistress more and more, and, based on that, becomes more assertive, the postmistress tells her what she really wants. The psychological interplay between these two characters is done so superbly that the tremendously shocking ending is completely credible and all the more powerful for it.
The film's setting, a small rural French town, also contributes to its power, and is an equally superb choice that subtly underlines the contrast of the highly educated wealthy who retreat from the world, and the street smart working class who make the world what it is--in particular, foisting it when and where they can on their bitter rivals, the rich, for position in the world they know.
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