Le Boucher (1970) 3.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 81.9
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 93 mins
Director: Claude Chabrol
Stars: Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia

Le Boucher is a meticulously constructed thriller from France’s master of suspense which frame for frame reminds of what is missed by the fast paced glossy direction we see in so many of today’s films. Stéphane Audran stars as a young headmistress in a provincial village whose reserved life is altered for the better when she strikes up a friendship with a local butcher (Jean Yanne). However, this coincides with a series of bloody murders of young women and it’s not long before she suspects her new friend, a suspicion which thrusts her into the type of emotional turmoil she had hoped never to face again.

Le Boucher or “The Butcher” is a delicate yet atmospheric thriller which doubles as a perceptive investigation into the closely related concepts of need, obsession, and self-control. It’s superbly structured with a number of protracted sequences such as the opening wedding which are staged and sequenced in a manner reminiscent of The Godfather and The Deer Hunter but on a less grand scale. Writer/director Claude Chabrol strikes an exquisite balance between his Hitchcockian influences and the nouvelle vague (“new wave”) sentiments (though not necessarily the techniques) which he helped forge. The final sequence in particular is startlingly arresting and is as powerful a denouement to the issues addressed as could be achieved.

Audran is a brilliant lead and carries much of the film thanks to her clear focus on what was needed from her character. There’s an engaging naturalness to her at all times even when she’s expressing her more unusual stances on her romantic life. Yanne complements her excellently as the more down to earth working man but shifts gears well when the mystery requires it. Le Boucher is a patient and compelling portrait of a murderer but it’s also something much more and interesting. For that reason, it shouldn’t just be required viewing for fans of mystery and thrillers but for cinema fans in general.

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