on August 6, 1999
A beautiful movie full of sexual intensity. The movie revolvesaround the lesbian relationship of a wealthty french woman(StéphaneAudran) and a street artist who becomes her lover/protogee(Jacqueline Sassard).
Both woman are physically stunning and the scenes of them together, though never explicit, are thoroughly sensual. The plot thickens with the intoduction of a third character - an attractive male architect(Jean-Louis Trintignant). The protogee's sway towards him causes a facinating shift in the relationship between all three.
Keep in mind that director Claude Chabrol is something of a French Alfred Hitchcock
Most of the film is shot in St Tropez and Paris. The scenery is breathless.
on September 4, 2006
Many American reviewers (though not all, thankfully) seem completely baffled by this wonderful sample of French sense and sensibility. Some think it is funny. I couldn't detect anything funny about it. Some say it is not erotic. To me it seemed exceptionally erotic. Others find it dull and boring. Tant pis for them.
Occasionally Chabrol is said to be "The French Hitchcock". However, the subtlety and penetration of Chabrol's presentation and analytic understanding of the psychology of his characters is far superior to anything by Hitchcock, perhaps because Chabrol is unencumbered by the simplistic trammels of Freudianism. The suspense lies in how the increasingly impossible tangle of the relationships is going to be resolved. The straightforward solution would be for Why to shake herself away from the hothouse she has entered; but here the underlying factor takes over: the atmosphere of wealth, ease and gratification has irrevocably seduced her. Corruption of innocence and simplicity appears to be a persistent theme of Chabrol's, from Les Cousins onward. Those who cannot cope are put through hell before they are destroyed.
Almost all the brief summaries of this exceedingly complex film, including the one on the dvd cover, are highly misleading. It defies easy explanation. Whose actions are right and whose are wrong as the events unfold? Each of the three main characters acts with a natural selfishness, but what exactly are their underlying motivations? Why does Frederique seduce Paul? Why does Paul ditch Why? What does Why hope to gain by staying on? Are any of them actually capable of loving another person? Is homosexuality merely an extreme form of narcissism?
on May 22, 2004
The blasé Frédérique (Stéphane Audran) constantly seeks diversions as she finds Why (Jacqueline Sassard), a female street artist, with whom she initiates a love affair. Frédérique shows off her luxurious apartment in Paris and her mansion on the French Riviera as well as her company for Why. Why, who has nothing, is drawn into Frédérique's steel grip where she is dominated and controlled. The love affair between the two women seems to lead toward an end as Why falls in love with Paul Thomas (Jean-Louis Trintignant), but Frédérique becomes intrigued by the situation and finds a way to get things her way. Chabrol creates an excellent atmosphere in Les Biches, a dark drama, that depicts several concepts such as wealth, the bourgeoisie, domination, and rebellion. These concepts initiate a self-destructive pattern which influences the psychology of Why as she looses control of her own will and life. In the end, Chabrol leaves the viewer with a terrific psychological thriller with an open ending leaving much room for thought.
Les Biches is from the early middle period of Claude Chabrol's long career in film making. It is interesting but somewhat inexplicable. It features longtime French leading man Jean-Louis Trintignant as Paul Thomas, an architect who comes between wealthy playgirl Frederique (Stephane Audran) and her latest plaything, street artist "Why" (Jacqueline Sassard) with disastrous consequences.
Audran, who was Chabrol's wife at the time, sports spit curls down the side of her ears like sideburns which is apropos since her character is bisexual. She is a woman with a steely imperial manner who enjoys conquests above all. First she picks up Why, beds her, and then when Paul arrives on the scene showing an interest in Why, she seduces Paul and dumps Why.
The question is why? In the central scene (as far as the plot goes) the three get drunk with seemingly obvious intent only to have Frederique nix the menage a trois and shut the bedroom door on Why. Why, who has been desperately trying to look like Frederique, sits outside the bedroom door and listens to the drunken lovers inside and sucks on her fingers.
Obviously Paul would have gone along with this juicy arrangement, and certainly Why wanted it desperately. But Frederique is malicious and all conquering. Paul, who is anything but a heroic character does not insist on Why's joining them in bed not because he is madly, exclusively in love with Frederique but more likely because Frederique is the better catch because of her wealth. He is a cautious, opportunistic man.
The dialogue is sharp and witty but reserved and terse. One striking feature is the way the eyes of the women are so heavily made up. Clearly this signals a film made in the sixties. The scene in which Frederique hosts a poker game certainly anticipated the popularity of the game today. Interesting are the sycophantic gay guys that Frederique keeps around her chateau in St. Tropez for amusement.
The finish of the film is a bit of a surprise and really not that well foreshadowed. Also the title, Les Biches (translated as "Bad Girls" in English) is a bit of mystery. More appropriate might be "L'imperatrice petite" with the focus where it should be on the character of Frederique.
on July 20, 2002
I viewed Les Biches when I was 13 years old and have never been as affected by a film as much. This film ranks up with films masked in sorrow such as, Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, Bergman's Cries and Whispers, and Truffaut's Les Quatre Cents Coups. I am somewhat saddened that this film hasn't been released as a Criterion Collection DVD which I deeply belive it should. All the characters played in this film are very much enigmas especially Jacqueline Sassard's character, Why. At first Why appears to be naive and dull, but within the course of the film soon turns psychotic and violent.
The basic storyline is a bisexual Parisean socialite, Frederique, picks up a waif, Why, who earns her living drawing does on the streets of Paris. Soon Frederique brings Why to what is left of St. Tropez on the off season to meet the chic crowd. Why meets and falls in love with suave architect,Paul. When Frederique tries to get back at Why, she finds true love in Paul and gets between Why and Paul. Paul seduces Frederique and after a while goes back to Paris with him. Why goes back to Paris also.
The scene of Why going back to Paris, filmed from a moving car, focusing on Notre Dame on an overcast afternoon for about ten seconds is etched forever in my memory along with the ultimately distrurbing and murky ending.
This is a truly great film experience that has been unseen for too long.
on October 18, 2012
There is no doubting Chabrol's skill as a film-maker, and his talents are on full view here. Beautifully crafted, and filled with sensuous shots of Paris and St Tropez, this langorous movie is conveyed as four chapters announced by title ( eg Prologue, Epilogue), but within each the pace is accelerated by dynamic cutting. The three main characters have their similarities and their differences and together they provide an explosive triangle --- a formidable recipe for intrigue, surprise, and ultimately disaster. Their mind-sets and emotions are brilliantly explored by hauntingly nuanced close-ups. Glances and shrugs become part of the terse dialogue that is uncomplicated, revealing, and often humorous. No need to dwell on the plot, given the several comprehensive reviews already published, but I am at a loss to understand why Chabrol allows what might have been a masterpiece to be spoiled by the emphasis he gives to the two creepy buffoons to whom Frederique gives free bed and board. Their idiotic background presence ruins the climactic scene where Why and Paul first confess their mutual attraction. The silly housekeeper is another example of Chabrol's lack of judgement in the peripheral details of his creations that degrades the otherwise excellent quality of the central core. Finally --- as one reviewer has pointed out --- full marks to whoever provided the subtle unobtrusive music that adds to the pleasures of this intriguing but somewhat flawed film that on this particular disc is faultlessly transferred but lacking any extras .
on July 19, 2006
Brittle, complicated,timeless on the one hand yet definitely of a time on the other, Claude Chabrol's sublime "Les Biches" (not what you think, btw...but meaning "The Does" as in a female deer), released in 1968 resonates with subtext and reverberates with thought and meaning from which several subsequent directors have shamelessly borrowed: particularly Robert Altman in his much maligned, though glorious "Three Women" and Barbet Schroeder's more pedestrian "Single White Female."
Frederique (the iconic Stephane Audran) is rich, bored, mostly gay and looking for diversion when she comes upon street artist Why (Jacqueline Sasssard...and yes that is her name) who draws chalk Does on the Paris streets, is homeless, begs for money and sleeps with whomever can offer her a bed for the night. F is more than eager to offer Why a bed, a home in St. Tropez and a life filled with luxuries. But what Frederique is not willing to offer Why is her freedom. F is the master/hunter and Why is the slave/prey: or is it vice versa as throughout this film their roles change,flip then flop then flip again.
Chabrol is dealing with so many things here: the ability to receive or give love unselfishly, the doubling or taking on the persona (shades of Bergman's "Persona") of the object of your love, the stain and ruin of jealousy and on and on.
"Les Biches" is simple and stubbornly straightforward on one level yet feverishly complicated on most. Is Love hard as a *itch or soft as a Doe? Look elsewhere if you are looking for the easy answer: You won't find it in "Les Biches."
on October 8, 2009
Frederique (Audran, 35 in this film), is a wealthy woman trolling the streets of Paris looking for young women to seduce. Why (Sassard, 27 in this film) is a starving artist who earns a living drawing pictures of does (hence the film's title, which also means young women, so "Bad Girls" is a complete mistranslation) on sidewalks. They meet by accident, become friends and eventually lovers.
Frederique has a house in the south of France where she takes Why to solidify the relationship and achieve exclusivity with a beautiful young woman. What follows is a Garden of Eden sort of thing -- the Eve and Eve version -- until Adam shows up as Paul to gum up the works (Trintignant and Audran's real-life husband before Chabrol), an architect, who initially is quite smitten with Why (who wouldn't be?). Paul and Why have an affair that he treats as a casual fling, but she develops strong feelings for him while still in love with Frederique. Frederique also falls for Paul, whose socio-economic status is on the same level, and the feeling is mutual. They become lovers, which raises the conundrum how to push Why out of their lives because Frederique's passion for same gender relationships seems apparently to have been erased by Paul -- something that could have been worked out more fully, but then Audran married this guy in real life, which may have been Chabrol's idea of a joke ... Why won't be pushed, however, and the film has a tragic ending, which I won't reveal so as not to spoil the fun.
The ending is clever because it raises a host of important questions left to the viewer to decide, which is why (no pun intended) this is such an interesting film and so different from the tripe that Hollywood dishes out, where everything is delivered as a neatly wrapped package with no loose ends. Chabrol will have none of it because he knows that film stories will seem phony and artificial and superficial unless they mirror real life to a large extent, where resolution is not always achieved, things are seldom easy to predict in the long or even medium term, the law of unintended consequences rules more often than not, and we don't always live happily ever after as in fairy tales (again, no pun intended) like the Garden of Eden and such.
P.S. The DVD comes with voice-over commentary by a couple of critics, chatty, full of film-buff trivia, and largely beside the point. No need to turn it on.
on December 26, 2010
This is one of those weird movies that you either immediately get or don't. I loved it, from the "c'est tellement mieux comme ca" [as Frederique ties the shirt of her new lover] to the climax of violence. But I don't mean to sound like a snob: it is personal taste more than some kind of snotty avant garde preference. This is an extremely French film, with minute psychological nuance of bizarre personalities, slow action, and a buildup of unbearable psychological tension. It sounds like a cliche, but this is an acquired taste and very fun. The acting is excellent, if never quite straightforward, so you must guess at the motives and feelings of the protagonists.
Frederique is a bored rich woman, a sexual dynamo who experiments with women and men as she likes. She picks up an extraordinary bohemian beauty who is at an impasse in her life. She easily accepts Frederique's advances, moving into her house in the South of France. There are two 60s hangers-on types, possibly male lovers, who live there and make idiotic noise as art, gamble, and leech off of Frederique while expousing leftist revolution (yes, in the 60s there really were people like that in France). The two women pass into a halcyon time together, until an attractive man comes between them. Frederique establishes control, humiliating her female lover with the power of her means and her superior sexual skill. The result is a deadly triangle that resolves itself in murder, of course, but right up to the end it is impossible to predict who will finally act. The final resolution also appears off-screen, which is a delicious mystery.
There are so many odd details and clues in this that I will delight in watching this again and again. But it is not for everyone in the best subjective sense of "you just have to see it." Warmly recommended.
on January 7, 2011
This French film, dating from 1968, holds up remarkably well more than four decades later. While director Claude Chabrol is noted for his Hitchcock-influenced mysteries, this film is rather different. Here the plot consists of an unusual blend of psychological melodrama and social commentary. The psychological melodrama involves a love triangle centered on a narcissistic aristocrat (played to the hilt by Stephane Audran), torn between the younger woman she seduces and dominates, and the male professional whose independence appeals to her. The social commentary involves the fact that the psychological tension becomes an allegory for class warfare. The visuals, which use locations ranging from Paris to the south of France, are impressive, and reinforce the decadent feel of the movie.