‘Lies & Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol’ Arrow Video Blu-Ray Review – Underrated French Director Crafts Ruthless Tales

Too often overlooked and undervalued, Claude Chabrol was the first of the Cahiers du Cinema critics to release a feature film and would be among the most prolific. The sneaky anarchist of the French New Wave, he embraced genre as a means of lifting the lid on human nature. Nothing is sacred and nothing is certain in the films of Claude Chabrol. Anything can be corrupted, and usually will be. Arrow Video is proud to present Lies & deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol. Featuring Cop Au Vin (Poulet au vinaigre), Inspector Lavardin, Madame Bovary, Betty and Torment (L’enfer), this inaugural collection of Claude Chabrol on Blu-ray brings together a wealth of passionate contributors and archival extras to shed fresh light on the films and the filmmaker. Dark, witty, ruthless, mischievous: if you’ve never seen Chabrol before, you’re in for a treat. If you have, they’ve never looked better.

For a look at Lies & Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic here

For more in-depth thoughts, please see our follow-up discussion on The Video Attic: 

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Video Quality

The five films in the Lies & Deceit box set return to Blu-Ray thanks to Arrow Video with brand new 1080p masters in their original aspect ratios. These films, save for Madame Bovary, were previously available in different configurations through multi-film sets from Cohen Media, which we have not been able to view previously. Each of these films have been restored and supplied to Arrow by MK2. By and large these five releases are very similar to one another and will be discussed as a group with any meaningful differences pointed out. 

Without ever having seen these films before, it is with fresh eyes that we must note how gorgeous these transfers are across the board. The lovely photography captures the various French locales and eras in time quite marvelously in high definition with natural grain intact and nicely resolved. There is a fantastic amount of detail present with nice textures on the clothing, both in the fancy clothing of Madame Bovary to some of the more shabby patrons in Betty. The new transfers show off a great amount of depth and enhanced detail, but admittedly the close-up shots hold up better than the long shots. There are certain elements of the sumptuous production design that look quite striking in their clarity. Black levels are very deep with no trace of black crush or compression artifacts. The early Lavardin films go for a cooler color temperature while Chabrol goes for something more golden and warmer for Betty and Torment. The contrast is well defined, and there is virtually no print damage to be found outside a few stray moments. Arrow Video has done a miraculous job with all of these transfers in a way that should make anyone who decides to pick this set up extremely happy. 

Audio Quality

Cop Au Vin comes with a DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mono track in the original French, while Inspector Lavardin, Madame Bovary and Betty are given LPCM 1.0 mono tracks in the original French, and Torment is given an LPCM 2.0 stereo track in French. Every single one of these tracks represent these stories in a straightforward but impressive way sonically. Dialogue is of primary importance to these narratives, and the tracks never lack for clarity. These tales mostly take place in more gentle environments filled with sounds of nature that creep through to provide some excellent ambient details. All of the various sounds in the mix seem accurately rendered so that nothing ever feels off. There are not many moments that go in an action direction, but moments of Torment do add a bit of suspense and texture. The music throughout these five films brings a very distinct mood to the proceedings that is represented well in the mix. Everything is presented with an excellent fidelity with only the occasional instance of sound presenting as a bit thin or boxy. This presentation is free of any hiss or other age-related wear-and-tear. Another 5-star effort from Arrow Video. 

Special Features

The Limited Edition Collector’s Set of the Arrow Video Blu-Ray of Lies & Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol comes beautifully packaged in a hard outer case and includes a 80-page bound book featuring new writing by film critics Martyn Conterio, Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Sam Wigley, and archive material from Claude Chabrol and more. These works provide a great analysis of each film and Chabrol at large in a thoughtfully written style. The on-disc special features are as follows: 

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Cop Au Vin

  • Audio Commentary: Critic Ben Sachs provides a very informative and entertaining commentary track in which he discusses the career and legacy of Claude Chabrol, the stylistic allusions to Alfred Hitchcock, recurring themes throughout his work, the unclear morals of the film, the careers of the performers and the creative team, the score from Chabrol’s son and more. 
  • Ian Christie on Claude Chabrol: A 13-minute piece in which film historian Ian Christie reminisces about his 1994 interview with Chabrol, his history with the work of the filmmaker, Chabrol’s career, how he fares in comparison to his contemporaries, what he took from the interview and more. 
  • Claude Chabrol At The BFI: The aforementioned 75-minute interview from 1994 is provided here in full in which Chabrol discusses his career from his earliest turn writing a book about Hitchcock to his most recent film of the time (Torment (L’enfer)). There is so much great information in here including his early inspirations, his thoughts on the evolution of French cinema, the ups and downs of his career, his interest in police fiction, working with his performers, and so much more that is delivered with warmth and wit by the filmmaker. 
  • Introduction by Film Scholar Joël Magny: A three-minute piece which frames the film with how it fits into Chabrol’s career at large and within French cinema. 
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol: A 22-minute vintage piece in which Chabrol discusses some of his scenes from the film including his stylized opening credits sequence, the importance of including small details in complicated narratives, the motivations of his characters, shot composition, the themes of the film and more. 
  • Interview with Claude Chabrol, Jean Poiret & Stephane Audran: A 30-minute 1985 episode of Special Cinema from the French language Swiss TV Channel RTS in which Chabrol and stars Jean Poiret and Stephane Audran speak alongside Swiss director Francis Reusser and actress Isabel Otero. This piece finds the participants discussing Cop Au Vin, the themes and conventions Chabrol is tackling, the performances and more. 
  • Theatrical Trailer: The two-minute trailer is provided here. 
  • Posters & Stills: A collection of images from the film and promotional materials are provided here. 

Inspector Lavardin

  • Audio Commentary: Critic Ben Sachs returns for another informative commentary track in which he discusses Chabrol at his most “relaxed” and “funniest”, the performances in the film, the inside jokes, the organization of space within the shots, the subversive elements of the narrative and more. 
  • Why Chabrol?: A 16-minute appreciation video from film critic Sam Wigley in which he discusses the career of Claude Chabrol, his prolific output, his lack of acclaim compared to his contemporaries, what sets him apart as a director, recurring stylistic choices and themes, why he should be considered essential viewing and much more. 
  • Introduction by Film Scholar Joël Magny: A three-minute piece which frames the film with how it fits into Chabrol’s career at large and within French cinema. 
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol: A 34-minute vintage piece in which Chabrol discusses why he wanted to make this film, trying to balance two different styles of storytelling, some issues he has with the film, shot composition, the performances, dropping breadcrumbs throughout the journey and more. 
  • Theatrical Trailer: The two-minute trailer is provided here. 
  • Posters & Stills: A collection of images from the film and promotional materials are provided here. 

Madame Bovary

  • Audio Commentary: Critic Kat Ellinger provides a very considered and entertaining commentary track in which she discusses how the material is perfect for Claude Chabrol, how the adaptation treats the source material in terms of additions and exclusions, analysis of the story and themes, the background of the creative figures involved and more.  
  • Imagining Emma – Madame Bovary On Screen: A 16-minute visual essay from historian Pamela Hutchinson in which she analyzes the classic source material, the various adaptations on screen, the tricky balancing act of the different threads of the novel and more. 
  • Introduction by Film Scholar Joël Magny: A nearly three-minute piece which frames the film with how it fits into Chabrol’s career at large and within French cinema. 
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol: A 38-minute vintage piece in which Chabrol discusses some of his scenes from the film including his approach to adapting the material, constructing his ideal ball sequence, working with the performers, distinct shot composition and more. 
  • Theatrical Trailer: The minute-and-a-half trailer is provided here. 
  • Posters & Stills: A collection of images from the film and promotional materials are provided here. 
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Betty

  • Audio Commentary: Critic Kat Ellinger provides a very thoughtful and entertaining commentary track in which she discusses how Chabrol shifted to stories centered around women in the latter part of his career, the themes of anti-sex and anti-romance, explorations of the limitations placed on women, the similarities and differences to the original text, the careers of the talent involved and more. 
  • Betty, from Simenon to Chabrol: A 16-minute visual essay from French Cinema historian Ginette Vincendeau in which she discusses the source material, the work of author Georges Simenon, the adaptations of Chabrol and how it connects to his interests, how the character is portrayed through the lens of the men controlling her narrative, the performances in the film and more. 
  • An Interview with Ros Schwartz: A 15-minute interview with the interpreter on-stage with Chabrol on the interview on the Cop Au Vin disc as she discusses her history with interpreting, her history with the writing of author Georges Simenon, her feelings as to why Chabrol made such a perfect pairing with the author’s work and more. 
  • Introduction by Film Scholar Joël Magny: A three-minute piece which frames the film with how it fits into Chabrol’s career at large and within French cinema. 
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol: A 32-minute vintage piece in which Chabrol discusses some of his scenes from the film including his drive to maintain subjectivity, symbolism within the narrative, the motivations of his characters, shot composition, the themes of the film and more. 
  • Theatrical Trailer: The minute-long trailer is provided here. 
  • Posters & Stills: A collection of images from the film and promotional materials are provided here. 

Torment

  • Audio Commentary: Critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson provide a very illuminating commentary track in which they the work of Claude Chabrol, the stylistic allusions to Alfred Hitchcock, the original vision of Clouzot, the formal techniques of the film, the careers of the performers and the creative team, and more that adds to your appreciation of the feature. 
  • Introduction by Film Scholar Joël Magny: A three-minute piece which frames the film with how it fits into Chabrol’s career at large and within French cinema. 
  • Scene Commentaries by Claude Chabrol: A nearly 40-minute vintage piece in which Chabrol discusses some of his scenes from the film including the varied perspectives, the motivations of his characters, shot composition, the themes of the film and more. 
  • Chabrol On Henri-Georges Clouzot: A 12-minute piece in which Chabrol discusses getting introduced to the material through Clouzot’s widow, the differing versions of the script, balancing respect for Clouzot’s vision with his own take on the material, the original attempt to make this film by Clouzot that was never completed, and more. 
  • Interview with Marin Karmitz: A 26-minute interview with Chabrol’s most frequent producer from 1985 onward in which he discusses his initial meeting with Chabrol, the low-point the filmmaker was at during this time, his working relationship that came from a place of monetary and creative understanding, recurring themes in his works, the place of politics, class and morality within his works, and more. 
  • Theatrical Trailer: The minute-and-a-half trailer is provided here. 
  • Posters & Stills: A collection of images from the film and promotional materials are provided here. 

 

Final Thoughts

Lies & Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol contains a diverse array of really effective and enrapturing dramas that show different facets of human psychology. Some films are stronger than others, but there is not a bad film in the bunch if you are one who enjoys carefully crafted tales of mystery and deception. Claude Charbol is a filmmaker who is not given as much respect as some of his contemporaries, but his attention to detail and eye for composition makes him worthy of exploration for curious cinephiles. Arrow Video has released another stunning box set featuring a nearly 5-star A/V presentation, engrossing special features, and top-notch packaging. This is a can’t miss collection for established fans and newcomers alike. Highly Recommended 

Lies & Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Arrow Video has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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