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  Colour of Lies, The Is it white?
Year: 1999
Director: Claude Chabrol
Stars: Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin, Antoine de Caunes, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Bernard Verley, Bulle Ogier, Pierre Martot, Noël Simsolo, Rodolphe Pauly, Adrienne Pauly
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: When a little girl is raped and murdered in the woods near a small Brittany town, suspicion falls on the last person who saw her alive: art teacher René Sterne (Jacques Gamblin). His protective wife, Vivianne (Sandrine Bonnaire), tries to stave off inquisitive new Police Inspector Lesage (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), but the allegations of the gossipy townsfolk put a strain on their marriage. Vivianne confides in her friend, local celebrity journalist Germain-Roland Desmot (Antoine de Caunes) who seizes his chance to seduce her. Under increasing pressure, René starts to question his own sanity.

Come the new millennium, Claude Chabrol regained his international standing with several high profile, critically-lauded films, but Au coeur du mensonge (literally: At the heart of a lie, but released outside France as The Colour of Lies) stems from a period when the French master of psychological suspense was somewhat neglected abroad. Not that Chabrol had lost his touch or anything, but his films had begun to look increasingly repetitive. The Colour of Lies remains one of Chabrol’s more obscure works, but once again finds him using the murder mystery format to mount a psychological study of the eccentric inhabitants of a small provincial town. Secrets and lies lurk beneath the tranquil surface, a marriage is in crisis, a woman shares a relationship with a possible killer - all themes Chabrol had dealt with many times before.

Although the leisurely pacing proves neither as hypnotic nor stimulating as past slow-burning Chabrol classics, what elevates this film above a mere episode of Midsummer Murders with pretensions is the deftness with which he outlines the manner in which different people interpret a situation - more the colour of perception perhaps than the colour of lies. “Thank God lies exist. Society would be hell to live in otherwise”, remarks the cynical Desmot, played in suitably slimy fashion by Antoine de Caunes, onetime host of French pop culture programmes Eurotrash and Rapido! While the journalist ironically argues lies reveal more about human nature, sensitive artist René prefers the truth, which Desmot counters is far more elusive. Underlining this theory, Desmot is discovered to have penned a novel loosely based on his affair with Vivianne who - in a typically wry and audacious Chabrolian touch - is confronted by her infidelity when René innocently unveils a painting of her standing naked in front of another man.

Ultimately the film is less concerned with the child murder (although the mystery is resolved satisfactorily) than the fraught domestic situation that results, driving René to question every aspect of his reality, including his own actions. He denies committing murder, Vivianne denies her affair and we are never wholly sure whether either is innocent or guilty. Jacques Gamblin’s blank-eyed ambiguity serves his role particularly well while Sandrine Bonnaire is equally strong. However, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is miscast as the soft-spoken, oddly apologetic policewoman who looks ready to throw up or burst in tears at any given moment.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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Claude Chabrol  (1930 - 2010)

A renowned director of French thrillers, he was one of the originators of the French New Wave of the fifties and sixties, often concentrating on middle class characters going through crises that led to murder, and made around fifty of these films in his long career. Starting with Le Beau Serge in 1958, he went on to direct such respected efforts as Les Cousins, The Champagne Murders, Les Biches, This Man Must Die, Le Boucher, Blood Relatives, Poulet au Vinaigre, a version of Madame Bovary with frequent star Isabelle Huppert, L'enfer, La Ceremonie, The Girl Cut in Two with Ludivine Sagnier, and his final work for the cinema, Bellamy with Gerard Depardieu.

 
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