The Eye of Evil (1962)



Directer: Claude Chabrol

Writter: Claude Chabrol, Martial Matthieu (collaboration)

Running time: 80 min

Country: Italy | France

Language: French
Genre: Thriller, Drama

Subtitle: English
Starring: Jacques Charrier, Stéphane Audran

and Walter Reyer


ควรค่าน่าดูตรงที่ผลงานของ Claude Chabrol ผู้กำกับขั้นเทพหนึ่งในกลุ่ม French New Wave ยุค60





  Albin Mercier, a French journalist, is sent to Bavaria to write an article about life in Germany. He is befriended by a bourgeois couple, the writer Andreas Hartman and his wife Hélène, who live near to him. The Hartmans appear to be perfectly happy together, and they seem to enjoy Merciers company. Mercier, however, begins to resent their happiness and resolves to take the place of Andreas. But just when he believes he has won Hélène for himself, he makes a terrible discovery. Hélène has a secret lover...


   The Eye of Evil (original title: L''Œil du malin) is a 1962 drama directed by Claude Chabrol. It is one of Chabrol''s first films to include social criticism on bourgeoisie lifestyles that would become one of his trademarks in later films. It tells the story of a journalist in southern Germany who stays with a novelist and his wife and gradually begins to destroy the young couple''s lives.




Just as Ophélia (1963) would be Claude Chabrols re-interpretation of Shakespeares Hamlet, so LOeil du malin is obviously derived from the Bards other great play, Othello, a tragic tale in which a man of dangerous passions is manipulated into destroying the thing he holds most dear, his young wife. Chabrols Iago, a mediocre journalist named Albin Mercier, isnt so much a cynical Machiavellian schemer as a pathetic psychotic who becomes consumed with the idea of inveigling his way into the lives of a seemingly harmonious couple so that he can usurp the man in the affections of his wife. Mercier is a composite of Psychos Norman Bates and Plein soleils Tom Ripley, a social inadequate who, still living in the shadow of his domineering mother, must destroy the thing he craves if he cannot possess it entirely. The most visually striking and disturbing of Chabrols early (New Wave era) films, LOeil du malin explores themes which would come to predominate in the directors oeuvre and pretty well serves as a template for his subsequent psychological thrillers.

"Things are never quite what they seem" is the phrase that most aptly sums up Claude Chabrols cinema. The seemingly placid bourgeois setting, inhabited by what appears to be the model married couple, is no more than a trompe loeil which masks the unsavoury truth lying just beneath the surface. The perfect world that Mercier sees and grows to envy is just an illusion, a mirage that is largely of his own creation. When he succeeds in entering this world, what the journalist finds is sordid imperfection that he cannot endure, so, like an artist confronted with his own failure, he must tear up the canvas, destroy this false vision of paradise. Mercier is like a pathetic child who smashes a mirror because he cannot stand the sight of his own reflection. Like Norman Bates, he is trapped in a bubble of self-loathing, forever alienated from the world around him by his vigorously repressed sexuality and contempt for other peoples happiness.

Psycho is not the only Hitchcockian influence in the film. References to Rear Window (1954), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959) are so easily spotted that no one could fail to recognise LOeil du malin as a fond homage to Hitchcock. When he was a critic, Claude Chabrol (along with Eric Rohmer) was instrumental in establishing Hitchcocks credentials as a film auteur. Previously, few critics had taken Hitchcock seriously, indeed most regarded him merely as a jobbing populist filmmaker. It is therefore appropriate and hardly surprising that Hitchcock should be the director who would have most impact on Chabrol when he began to make his own films. Indeed, Chabrol would ultimately earn himself the epithet of the Frances answer to Alfred Hitchcock.


LOeil du malin is the one Chabrol thriller in which the familiar Hitchcockian themes and motifs are most readily apparent. The central character (Jacques Charrier in arguably his best screen role) is a psychotic paranoiac with voyeuristic tendencies, Norman Bates in all but name; the heroine (Stéphane Audran, a Chabrol regular) is an attractive blonde and unattainable object of desire who inevitably goes the same way as Janet Leigh; and the third member of the ill-fated ménage-à trois (an excellent Walter Reyer) is Hitchcocks recurring Wrong Man, the innocent who takes the rap when he falls prey to a cruel conspiracy of circumstances. The suitably voyeuristic photography and slick editing build the suspense and create an aura of stifling menace, almost as effectively as Hitchcock. You could even swear that the eerily discordant score had been composed by Bernard Herrmann.


Although LOeil du malin is strongly reminiscent of Hitchcocks later films, Chabrol does manage to impose his own personality and style on the film, notably his antipathy for the false bourgeois milieu, along with the subtle irony and shards of dark humour that would come to characterise much of his subsequent work. Chabrol takes the familiar premise of many a thriller and cleverly inverts it for his own ends. It is not paradise destroyed by an incursion of evil that he shows us, but rather a paradise mired in evil that destroys the innocent outsider. It is not the characters in Chabrols films who are morally warped and prone to evil; it is the world in which they exist, a world of privilege that wallows in decadence and complacency, the perfect breeding ground for vice and murderous intent. Beneath the veil of bourgeois calm and respectability we are sure to find the visage of another Medusa.
James Travers, Films de France




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