Rien ne va plus Review

Rien ne va plus was Claude Chabrol’s fiftieth feature, though to celebrate the achievement he turned not to any kind of grandiosity, but rather the cinematic equivalent of a vacation. This is film as frothy concoction, a globetrotting jaunt which takes in the Swiss Alps and signals a narrative switch to Paris via an expository shot of the Eiffel Tower. In Hitchcockian terms, a mainstay in the Chabrol oeuvre, it’s the director’s equivalent of To Catch a Thief with a dash of his 1941 screwball Mr. and Mrs. Smith thrown in for good measure. In contrast to Feature No. 49, the late masterpiece La Cérémonie, Rien ne va plus is thoroughly lightweight: Michel Serrault and Isabelle Huppert play a husband-and-wife con-artist team who scam small-scale businessmen, albeit in as nice a manner as possible.

Indeed, Serrault seems to have approached the film as a strictly comic enterprise. With his dapper moustache and highly physical playing, it’s as though he’s making another instalment of La Cage aux folles. Similarly, Francois Cluzet’s prime mark, with whom our central pair occupy much of their time, goes for much the same tone, turning in a comical drunk scene and being oddly reminiscent of Alan Cumming. And yet Huppert on the other hand never takes things quite so easily. Certainly, we’re not talking subtlety on a par with La Séparation, say, but then there’s definitely something going on under the surface…

This of course is an essential quality to any con movie, and so it is that Chabrol continually keeps us guessing. Primarily it’s the question of the marriage which occupies our attentions. Is the jealousy for real once Huppert hooks up with Cluzet? How much of this “love triangle” is actually part of the con? And are both sides in on it or is Huppert going it alone? Ultimately, it comes down to who’s conning who, but then it’s also so terribly lightweight. There’s no genuine threat or menace to Rien ne va plus even as some more unsavoury characters begin to enter the fray. Of course, we perhaps shouldn’t expect too much in this department from a film geared towards Hitchcock’s more frivolous efforts, but then it is demonstrative of the overall looseness of Chabrol’s film. Essentially we don’t really care what happens or for the answers to any of the above questions – and, furthermore, neither are we asked to. In contrast to the taut building of tension which characterised La Cérémonie (not to mention many of the director’s features from the sixties and seventies), Rien ne va plus finds its director taking things just a little too easy. As such it’s very much a minor work with only minor pleasures and one which is likely to be remembered solely because it was Chabrol’s fiftieth production rather than for any merits in its own right.

The Disc

As with Second Sight’s release of La Cérémonie, Rien ne va plus’ DVD presentation is serviceable as opposed to being in any way impressive. For starters the print which has been used is excessively grainy, something of a surprise for a film which was made less than ten years ago. Certainly, the print is also clean and preserves the original aspect ratio (anamorphically enhanced), but shouldn’t we expect a little better. Furthermore, we also find English subtitles which, although generated by the disc, cannot be switched off. Thankfully, the soundtrack fares better with the original French Dolby Stereo recording and demonstrating few flaws. Indeed, both score and dialogue come across pleasingly well. The disc is notable, however, for the inclusion of Chabrol’s video commentary, a twenty-minute piece in which he chats over key scenes and discusses their various facets. Admittedly this does sometimes extend to merely explaining the action, but then it’s always interesting to hear the director talk even if, in this case, it’s over one of his lesser works. (As with the main feature, the video commentary comes with non-optional English subtitles.)

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