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Comedy of Power

3.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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(May 08, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

The latest thriller from French New Wave veteran Claude Chabrol opens with a tongue-in-cheek claim that it does not depict real events, even though it’s timely and provocative account of corporate and political corruption was inspired by a real-life scandal involving a French oil giant and several top-level politicians. The stunning and accomplished Isabelle Huppert (I Heart Huckabees) stars as Jeanne, a tenacious magistrate known as "the piranha" of the judiciary system, who puts her personal life on the back burner to pursue white-collar criminals with their private hands in public pockets. After gaining fame for locking up an embezzling CEO, Jeanne pushes the limits of her intoxicating power further than ever and winds up isolated in a dangerous game of threats and intimidation.

"The strongest film in years from this great French director [Chabrol]… features a sensational performance by Isabelle Huppert" – Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Special Features

  • Making-of
  • Original theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Isabelle Huppert, François Berléand, Patrick Bruel, Marilyne Canto, Robin Renucci
  • Directors: Claude Chabrol
  • Writers: Claude Chabrol, Odile Barski
  • Producers: Alfred Hürmer, Françoise Galfré, Patrick Godeau
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Koch Lorber Films
  • DVD Release Date: May 8, 2007
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000NDFI38
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,766 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Comedy of Power" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I always enjoy Chabrol's movies, he's so probing and so meticulous. Plus he directs with true genius, and uses some very great actors. It's quite a scathing view of power politics and corruption, but it's --as always with Chabrol--thoughtful. I find myself re-watching it, just to enjoy the finesse of the acting and direction.
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In November 2003, after a sensational trial that rocked the Republic of France for four scandal-soaked months, three key executives of that country's ELF oil company were found guilty of massive corporate malfeasance on a scale not seen in Europe since the turbulent days of World War II. The graft, money laundering, and granting of political favors for which these men were convicted extended into the upper reaches of the government as well, so the scandal served a concomitant salutary purpose of finally laying bare that nation's long-established practice of state-sponsored corruption.

"Comedy of Power" is famed director Claude Chabrol's very fictionalized take on the ELF scandal. Yet, while most of the names and many of the details have been changed or even fabricated for the movie, the themes and concerns are obviously very much in keeping with the spirit of the actual event. The always mesmerizing Isabelle Huppert plays a no-nonsense judge who is unrelenting in her pursuit of corporate corruption, obsessed with bringing the culprits - no matter their position or standing in the community - to justice. Refusing to buckle under to pressure from (equally corrupt) higher-ups who believe she is going too far in her investigations, Judge Jeanne Charmant-Killman zeroes in on her "victims," refusing to let go until she gets what she wants. Chabrol and Huppert together create a woman of conviction and strength who, nevertheless, knows her limitations and can even acknowledge what a strain her single-minded determination is placing on her personal life and marriage (whether or not she chooses to do anything about it is another matter).
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Claude Chabrol to the very end of his career never lost his touch; when it came to crafting well-thought-out films. "L'Ivresse du pouvoir" ("Comedy of Power") from 2006 was no exception. It was loosely based on the 'Elf Aquitaine S.A.' scandal that rocked France in 2003. But it goes beyond that, in its exploration of the mostly male-dominated world of multi-national corporations and government collusion and appeasement! Some reviewers seem to take offense to this, I wonder why? Maybe they just don't get it! Anyway, what really stands out the most here is the strong female character of 'Jeanne' (superbly played by Isabelle Huppert). Who is mockingly referred to: 'the 'piranha' by her male counterparts. She plays a judge that has been given the tough assignment of administering the law to some very high-placed men in government and in the private sector. Her prime target is initially 'Michel Humeau' (Francois Berleand), who actually comes across as a very unassuming and amenable person (she even has sympathy for him in the end). But what I really liked most about the film: it was free of all the cloak and dagger stuff that we've come to expect. Claude Chabrol made films for the thinking person and here he was showing us that our ideas about people in high-power, is for the most part incorrect. Meaning: they are actually very sophisticated and refined people (this is the Global Elite for the most part), yet are at the same time highly unscrupulous and unsavory all-in-one! This is one of the most important details in understanding the film. Along with the condescending treatment of justice 'Jeanne', by so many of the male characters (including her boss), with the sole exception being 'Felix' (played by Claude's son Thomas Chabrol).Read more ›
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As a fan of Claude Chabrol's darker psychological masterpieces like Les Bonnes Femmes, Les Biches, La Femme Infidele, Le Boucher, La Rupture, Wedding in Blood, Innocents with Dirty Hands, Masques, Cry of the Owl, La Cermonie and Flowers of Evil I have to say that I found Comedy of Power to be insightful as an examination of "power" and the various forms it takes but ultimately lacking some of the punch of Chabrol's darker signature works.

In fact I found Comedy of Power to resemble the much-heralded British mystery series Prime Suspect (which stars Helen Mirren) more than I found it to resemble Chabrol's other works. Like the British series, Comedy of Power focuses not so much on specific crimes but on the masculinist culture of both corporate and police work. In Prime Suspect Helen Mirren must not only battle the lawbreakers but also the lawmakers who are not always interested in accomodating female intrusions into what they see as a traditionally male practice. Similarly, Isabelle Huppert as Jeanne Charmant-Killman battles not just corporate greed in Comedy of Power but male resentment of her success on both the personal and professional fronts. Chabrol is interested in looking at the way power changes people, how it affects their self-image, their perception of reality, their values, and the way they treat others. At first we think that the focus will be on the offenders but soon we realize that the focus is on Jeanne Charmant-Killman herself. In the course of the film Huppert prosecutes several greedy corporate embezzlers and with each success she gains even more public notoriety. But as her notoriety increases her focus narrows and she begins prioritizing her life according to her need for more and more of that professional success. As a result her personal life suffers.
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