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La Rupture

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    Ian Jane
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  • La Rupture

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    Released by: Pathfinder Films
    Released on: 5/20/2003
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Stephane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michel Bouqet, Annie Cordy, Jean-Claude Drouot, Marguerite Cassan
    Year: 1970
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    The Movie:

    A breach cannot only mean a tear or rift, but can also refer to a breaking up or disruption of friendly relations. Claude Chabrol's film La Rupture (English translation as indicated in the film as The Breach) is a fitting title then, as the movie captures both the division between the wealthy and poor classes, in addition to the escalation of cruel behavior within a poorly defined 'family' structure.

    The movie begins showing lovely Chabrol favorite Stéphane Audran (Les Biches, Le Boucher) as Hélí¨ne Régnier, trying to take care of her small son, Michel, despite being tired from working late the previous night. When her husband Charles awakens, he is in a depraved, manic state and begins to advance on Hélí¨ne, and then throws and injures their son. Hélí¨ne hits him with a pan to stop him and then rushes off to the hospital with Michel.

    As she waits in the hospital and begins planning to divorce Charles, her father-in-law, Ludovic Régnier (Michel Bouquet), a wealthy manufacturer, shows up and informs her that Charles will divorce her and that he and his wife will raise Michel. A frustrated Hélí¨ne tells him the she will take Michel away as soon as it is possible and Mr. Régnier storms out of the hospital.

    Wanting to be near Michel as he recovers, Hélí¨ne rents a room in an old fashioned boarding house where an eccentric collection of people reside under the watchful eye of the landlord and her dysfunctional family. She proceeds to hire a lawyer and initiates the divorce process. It is at this point that you also learn of Hélí¨ne's background as she and her lawyer go get her belongings. She had to quit school and care for her ill father after her mother died, and her marriage to Charles fell apart when they turned to his cold parents, upon discovering she was pregnant, for financial support. He turned to drugs and she was shut out by the Régniers and not allowed to care for her son, until it was no longer bearable and she left, with her drug-addled husband in tow.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Régnier retains a lawyer to get advice on how they can get custody of Michel. While he and his wife attempt to convince the lawyer with tales of how Hélí¨ne is a vulgar person because she is poor and un-educated and was a former strip-tease dancer, the lawyer lets them know that it is extremely difficult to win custody of a child over the mother, unless there are extreme insinuating circumstances.

    Frustrated by the results of the meeting, Mr. Régnier hires the penniless son of a former business associate, Paul Thomas (Jean-Pierre Cassel), to capture evidence on Hélí¨ne in order to try and win custody of Michel. Paul begins a campaign of telling Hélí¨ne's friends and associates that she is a floozy and a drunkard, in hopes that her obvious financial struggles will be further impended by the lack of support from anyone she knows. He also manages to move in to the boarding house, after telling Hélí¨ne that he is in cancer treatment at the hospital and needs a place to stay that is nearby, and posing as an old friend of her soon to be ex-husbands.

    From there, Paul drops hints and suggestions to everyone in the house that Hélí¨ne is a promiscuous lush, while dually pretending to be her friend. Frustrated that he is unable to get any dirt on her and running out of time with the divorce proceedings close to commencing, he concocts a desperate plan with his girlfriend to frame Hélí¨ne as a sexual deviant, by planning to drug both her and the mentally challenged daughter of the boarding house landlords.

    As the plan is set in motion, Hélí¨ne starts to get clues about the nature or her 'friend' Paul, but is still trapped in the events of his plan until she is forced to change tactics and, in order to try and save her name and her custody, fight in a bizarre twist of events that leaves everyone involved drastically affected by their actions.

    The richness of the characters and the acting are the best part of La Rupture. The barking commands and the utter obstinate coldness of Michel Bouquet as Mr. Régnier, provides a chilling example of how wealth can give people so much cruel power. Jean-Pierre Cassel is also great as the despicable Paul, whom, knowingly being used by Mr. Régnier, still manages to sic his teeth into the destruction of Hélí¨ne using any means morally or immorally possible.

    There is also an abundance of minor characters that add to the overall ethical landscape of the films plot. The three nosey old ladies who reside at the boarding house and comment throughout the movie on the comings and goings of residents, and the dramatic, over-the-top actor who also lives at the boarding house, provide not only much needed comic relief, but help demonstrate in different ways that some people will not choose money or power over helping those in need. The ramshackle boarding house's drunk landlord and Paul's sleazy and self-serving girlfriend show how some people are unapologetically not changed by anything.

    Out of all of the Chabrol films I have seen, this one feels the most universal, and the most likely to relate to the viewers. Most everyone has been on the giving or receiving end of a power struggle, and more often than not, one of a financial nature. One additional interesting aspect of the film is that while there is more than enough of a setting to comment on whether or not a wealthy person is more equipped to raise a child, and the answer is certainly hinted at with the wreck of a person that Charles Régnier is, it's not the primary focus of the story. It's just another way that Chabrol shows in La Rupture how controlling situations, as well as other people, are sometimes more prevailing than the welfare of those at stake.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The non-anamoprhic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer is one of the crisper looking films in the box set. The colors are clear and bright and while there is some print damage in a few scenes, most of it is pretty minor and doesn't detract much from anything occurring on screen. Compression isn't overtly noticeable and for the most part, this is a pretty decent transfer without the problematic fuzzy trails that have occurred on some of the other discs in the set.

    You have your choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks: the native French track and a dubbed Spanish track. Removable English subtitles are also included. Clarity for the most part is fine without any noticeable hiss or audible problems.

    Besides the standard text bios and still gallery, the disc also contains the original theatrical trailer and an audio commentary from screenwriters Howard Rodman, Terry Curtis Fox, and by F.X. Feeney.

    The Final Word:

    This is a must see for Chabrol fans and genre fans alike, with a large collection of extremely talented French actors cast against a rich and dynamic story that comments on class struggles and the way money can seduce and beguile. The film also contains one of the creepiest images I have ever seen; forcing a drugged mentally challenged girl to watch what appears to be a very disturbing, almost Satanic, porn movie while trying to turn her on. The print and extra features also make this one of the more robust entries in the Claude Chabrol Collection.
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