There was a period in the early 1970s when I was so struck by Claude Chabrol’s Le boucher (1970) that I sought out all his other films. I’m sure, however, that a major part of my intense interest in these films was simply in watching Stéphane Audran on the big screen. In those days, repertory cinema in London made it possible to catch up with art films from the 1960s so there was often a Chabrol film, with his then wife Audran, showing somewhere.
I’m not sure if a career mainly working for one director qualifies Stephane Audran as a ‘star’ of la nouvelle vague, but she was certainly the star of Chabrol’s films. Her career began with small roles in two mainstream features in 1957/8 when she was in her mid twenties. This was followed by a small role in Eric Rohmer’s first feature before her first (small) role for Chabrol in Les cousins in 1958. In 1960 she is one of the four shopgirls in Les bonnes femmes, but for the next few Chabrol films she has only minor roles with the exception of the little seen L’oeil du malin (1962) in which she is one of the three leads. Her rise to stardom comes with Les biches (The does) in 1968 – in which she plays one of a pair of bisexual women who become involved with Jean-Louis Trintignant. She had married Chabrol in 1964 and for the next few years, the couple had a golden period producing well-received bourgeois crime thriller/melodramas.
Claude Chabrol was easily the most prolific director of his generation. Between 1958 and 1970 he made 22 films (4 of which were ‘segments’ in portmanteau films). It’s hardly surprising that Audran didn’t have too much time for work with other directors. Chabrol also tended to make the same kinds of films – mostly related to his great interest in Hitchcock’s work. Stéphane Audran became his ‘cool blonde’. I need to go back and watch some of the classic films from the late 1960s and early 70s again, but my memory is that Stéphane Audran could manage to create a tension between an elegant and aloof cool sophistication and hints of vulnerability. I did watch Le boucher again a few years ago and it stood up very well. (In the book on Chabrol by Robin Wood and Michael Walker, Walker points out that where most mainstream critics praised the film highly, Cahiers du cinéma turned against Chabrol for the first time.)
Here is the trailer for the elusive L’oeil du malin – could a UK or US distributor find this and put it out on DVD please?
. . . and as Ginette in Les bonnes femmes.