Combustible Celluloid
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With: Isabelle Huppert, François Berléand, Patrick Bruel, Marilyne Canto, Robin Renucci, Thomas Chabrol, Jean-François Balmer, Pierre Vernier, Jacques Boudet, Philippe Duclos, Roger Dumas
Written by: Claude Chabrol, Odile Barski
Directed by: Claude Chabrol
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 19/03/2013

Comedy of Power (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Giving Them the Business

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

That old reliable master Claude Chabrol has re-teamed with the great, chilling Isabelle Huppert for another delightful nail-biter, their seventh film together (The Swindle and Merci pour le chocolat were their previous collaborations). For whatever reason, these two seem to inspire the best in each other; Chabrol manages a brisk, light tone, even though the movie is mostly talk, and Huppert turns in a powerhouse performance as Jeanne Charmant-Killman, an unflappable judge. Known outside her office as "the piranha" and clad in red leather gloves, she begins working on a case exposing corporate embezzlement. She arrests and begins questioning a nervous CEO (François Berléand), who has a skin condition that causes him to continually scratch at his neck. The more she digs, however, the deeper the corruption goes. With the exception of a harmless auto "accident" and some graffiti in her office, Chabrol only suggests the sinister forces at play. He shows a group of fatcats smoking cigars and swilling brandy, attempting to get rid of her by promoting her. Huppert is the real driving force here, however. She stalks through hallways wearing lean black suits and buckled raincoats, followed by dutiful bodyguards. She knows all the tricks and doesn't waste any time. She eats and sleeps voraciously, and even her husband (Robin Renucci) can't keep up. She's sexy, but Chabrol isn't concerned with eroticism this time around (unlike his previous film, the masterful The Bridesmaid). Her closest ally is her nephew Felix (Chabrol's son Thomas), with whom she shares some wonderful, light moments. Because of this lightness, Chabrol is allowed to leave off with the crimes unsolved and the corruption firmly rooted. What else can you do but laugh? (Note: the film opens April 20, 2007 at the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco.)

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