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Que La Bête Meure – The Beast Must Die

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Also known as 'This Man Must Die', this is the Claude Chabrol revenge drama, based on the novel by Cecil Day-Lewis (writing as Nicholas Blake) rather than the Amicus werewolf film with Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing etc.

It opens wordlessly with a hit and run driver killing a child. The opening words are the child's father, Charles, voicing what he's writing in his notebook: he's going to kill a man, but does not know who – the driver is unknown.

With the police unable to find out who did it, he starts looking. The car must have been damaged, do any garage owners know anything? The police have checked, so that looks like a dead end. But a very big co-incidence leads to one clue, and he ends up dating the passenger in the car, all the while updating his notebook. It turns out that her brother-in-law owns a garage – could he be the driver? Charles arranges a visit and it turns out that Paul Decourt is not very nice: only his mother likes him and his son would like to see him dead too. Hmm. When Paul dies in suspicious circumstances, the police are handed the notebook and start asking questions.

The plot device that is most interesting to modern viewers was reused by Basic Instinct. Would anyone actually murder someone knowing that the police are aware of their book saying how they'd do it? Is the book a confession, an alibi, or something someone else has taken advantage of? Did the author do it, or was it someone else who wanted the victim dead?

The film is also vicious in its portrayal of petit-bourgeois France. No-one runs to the child's body, they walk. Was Charles's housekeeper the only one who loved the child before he died? Everyone knows that Paul is a violent shit, but no-one does anything about it… until his murder. And Charles uses the car's passenger ruthlessly to get to the driver.

Sadly, the good stuff is outweighed by the problems. The cinematography is second rate – there are several places where the characters are almost invisible in shadow because the background is well lit, for example, and it does not look deliberate. Worse, the acting is not much better with more caricature than believable characterisations.

TL;DR It was interesting to see it (on Film4) but once is definitely enough. Your life is complete without seeing it unless you love Chabrol.

Film: 2/5

Written by Ian

May 10th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Cinema

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