Opening 20 Jul 2006
Claude Chabrol , the French New Wave director with more than 40 excellent films to his credit, has just has delivered another. This time he takes on the questionable practices of French business and a government policy which allows an underlying corruption to flourish and in many aspects even legalizes it, in order to, as one company CEO remarks, openly “keep the wheels greased and the economy rolling.” Big business passes out envelopes of money to foreign governments, CEOs maintain mistresses in a style once accorded Mme du Pompadour on money they have “redirected” from their company coffers, and Isabelle Huppert delights in the delicious role of a magistrate assigned to explore some of the more openly notorious deviations of these practices. As she uncovers more and more flagrant breaches of moral and legal conduct and is able to put a number of CEOs in jail, at least temporarily, she develops what can only be described as a power high bringing down the mighty. How far can she go? If she works 24 hours a day, will she be able to trap even more of them? And when will she run up against the immovable object of the ponderous State?
Meanwhile, her marriage is faltering under the burden of her workaholic habits and the obvious delight she has in the degradation of her targets. Her husband is not in the least amused, but her nephew (an unemployed gambler who camps out with them played by Chabrol’s son, Thomas Chabrol) is. And so are we! The film is fast-paced, highly entertaining, funny, engrossing, and only in retrospect seriously depressing as we reflect on the picture of a society which is as much American or German as French, even if all the back-room shenanigans remain out of public view most of the time.
Chabrol begins his film with the a disclaimer: “No one in the film is meant to portray any living person nor is any particular firm the basis for the film, it is all just fiction” but the case of Elf Acquitaine in France, Jack Abramoff and the corruption of Congressmen in the US, or the behaviour of the “gentlemen” from Volkswagen is all too clear in our minds. But since, as one character says, “Everybody does it” we can just move on and enjoy the film. (Adele Riepe)