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Biches, Les

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    Ian Jane
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  • Biches, Les

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    Released by: Pathfinder Pictures
    Relased on: 5/20/2003
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Stephane Audran, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Jacqueline Sassard
    Year: 1968
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Les Biches is a superbly woven tale of the jealous possession and use of other people, with comments on the friendship of women, against a backdrop of flirtatious bisexual themes, the classic love triangle, and the way of life of the rich. Frédérique is a wealthy and sophisticated woman who comes across a young woman painting chalk pictures of does for money on a Paris sidewalk and drops a 500 note down for the girl amongst the change that other people have tossed. The girl starts to leave and then comes back to ask her why she left the large amount of money for her. The girl introduces herself as Why, and Frédérique invites her back to her apartment for a hot bath and coffee. Why is wary and sullen with the attention and care Frédérique lavishes on her, but the ending scene of this interlude shows Frédérique completely in control, as well as her obvious attraction to Why.

    Soon they are off to Frédérique's villa St. Tropeze, which is occupied by two flamboyant who are likely gay (though it is not specifically implied that they are gay until later in the movie, when they are called fairies by Paul.) Soon Frédérique and Why are enjoying the activities of the town, with clips showing them at parties, playing bowls, shopping, and more. Their physical relationship is never really specifically implied or shown, over than a scene where Frédérique is petting Why's hair like a beloved pet.

    At one of the many parties, a young architect, Paul, becomes entranced with Why, who seemingly returns his attention wholeheartedly. Why leaves the house, almost defiantly, to catch up with him. Amused by this behavior, Frédérique has her two housemates follow them.

    Why tells Paul that the two men are following them (who haven't been very covert) because it amuses Frédérique, and tells him to kiss her so that it can be reported back to Frédérique. They go back to Paul's place where Why spends the night.

    When Why shows up the next morning Frédérique is very casual and cheery, and surprises Why by not seeming to care that Why has spent the night with a man. She tells Why that she just wants her to be happy.
    However, in the next scene, Frédérique is visiting Paul at the building he is working on, and starts grilling him about his affection for Why. They end up getting drunk and fooling around, and Paul misses his date he had planned with Why.

    Meanwhile, Why is shown playing bowls and looking at her watch, starring at every vehicle that comes by, and becoming more and more dejected that Paul has not met her. She races all over town looking for Paul and even goes to his apartment, but eventually goes back to the villa where her unhappiness is shown by the tears rolling down her face.
    Frédérique comes in with Paul and tells everyone that she is going to Paris with Paul. She asks Why if Why minds, and Why says she doesn't. Why asks to stay there at the villa while she is gone, and Frédérique tells her she can. Why becomes reclusive and self-isolated while they are gone.

    Frédérique comes back with Paul, and she tells Why that she has asked Paul to move in, and that they are in love. She tells Why that she hasn't felt this way about a man in a long time, and she hopes Why doesn't mind. Why seems to take the news calmly, but her mental state is questionable, as one scene shows Paul finding Why dressed and made up like Frédérique.

    The two housemates detest Paul being there and one of them tries to get Why to help them get rid of him. Why tells Frédérique and then she frames the two men, knowing that Frédérique will kick them out. The next day Why has made the couple breakfast and appears very happy at the reduced household size. Later that night, they are drinking and listening to music, and they steadily get drunker. As the tone becomes more flirtatious, Why tries to show affection for both of them, and even attempts to kiss Paul in a more than friendly manner.

    When you see Why at their bedroom door listening in on their lovemaking, you realize how all consuming her obsession has become, and it all leads up to a twist ending that would make Hitchcock proud, who Chabrol is often compared to.

    Much like The Unfaithful Wife, Les Biches is a subtly careful examination of love, sexual compulsion, and obsession. Chabrol uses his camera to subtly build tension scene by scene. He takes his time and builds his story slowly and carefully, making you care about the characters and pulling you into their situations whether you like it or not.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The film is presented in a nice widescreen 1.85.1 anamorphic transfer. Oddly enough, the trailer is approximately 2.35.1, but the video looks like it's in its original aspect ratio, nothing feels 'wrong' with the compositions on screen. Colors are pretty decent, though like The Unfaithful Wife, the transfer is just a bit soft. For the most part, grain is kept to a minimum and there aren't really any major print defects on display here.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono soundtrack is in French with English subtitles. It is clean, clear and easy to follow with only minimal audible hiss appearing in a couple of spots for a second or two.

    Pathfinder has included biographies for the cast and crew, a trailer, a still gallery, and an informative and interesting full-length commentary from film critics Wade Major and F. X. Feeny.

    The Final Word:

    An excellent film is given its due on DVD. Les Biches is available separately or as part of Pathfinder's Claude Chabrol Collection Limited Edition Box Set.
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