Some filmmakers, like Chaplin and Kubrick, determined that they should release a film only every few years, to make it more like an event to be anticipated. Other filmmakers work faster and harder in an effort not to be forgotten, like Spike Lee or Woody Allen. It's difficult to determine which method is more effective, but it seems like if a filmmaker turns in over fifty films of mostly high quality, their work is eventually taken for granted. Everyone loves Hitchcock now, but in 1976 when his final film opened, he must have seemed like a relic compared to Rocky and Taxi Driver. That's how I imagine Claude Chabrol today. Now 77, he releases a movie a year, more or less, and passed the fifty-film marker some time ago. Unlike his French New Wave colleagues, he didn't make a single masterpiece in his youth, and so has nothing to live up to. Rather, he's consistently reliable and skillful, and it's difficult to judge any one of his films up against another. Look through reviews of his most recent films, and for each one you'll find at least one person claiming it's his best film in years.
And so comes A Girl Cut in Two, which recently screened at the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival. I loved it. It's another superbly-made, highly enjoyable Chabrol film, but you probably won't see it on any top ten lists, nor will Chabrol be collecting any awards for it. I think "consistent" is a bad word among film people; we're more easily impressed by change and diversity, or by the newest, latest thing. Actors like John Wayne were routinely overlooked in favor of actors like Marlon Brando, though Brando could never in a million years have pulled off what John Wayne accomplished in The Searchers. Brando could do lots of things, but John Wayne was the best at being John Wayne. That's my standard rant, and that's how I feel about Chabrol. Now, onto the new film: