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aka - Bitter Reunion
France 1958
Directed by
Claude Chabrol
94 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Beau Serge, Le

Although touted as the first Nouvelle Vague film this is more to do with the fact that its director Claude Chabrol was one of the group of Cahiers Du Cinema critics who took to film-making and it was the first film that any member produced.. This does not mean that the film displays any stylistic innovation as such. 
The dominant influence appears to be that of  Robert Bresson and in particular his Diary Of A Country Priest (1950) which similarly deals with a central character desperately determined to make a difference to the lives of poor and uninterested peasantry. Here it is François (Jean-Claude Brialy), an evidently successful  young man who returns from Paris to visit his hometown of Sardent, a run-down village (and Chabrol’s childhood home) in the department of Creuze in central France whose inhabitants live a rudimentary existence. He finds his childhood best friend, Serge (Gerard Blain, projecting a James Dean circa East Of Eden, 1955, quality of despairing hostility), who has become a self-pitying drunkard and sets about trying to get him to put his life back on track.
Chabrol is evidently writing from the heart and the film is also reminiscent of Italian neo-realism in the way that it empathetically portrays the brutalizing effects of poverty, the final shot of Serge laughing. a powerfully iconic statement of despair.
Not only well-written and performed, Le Beau Serge epitomises the look of the period thanks to the marvellous black and white photography of Henri Decaë and Jean Rabier, cinematographers whose names would regularly appear in the Nouvelle Vague catalogue and beyond.

Available from: Madman




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