A Double Tour (Chabrol, 1959)

Also known as LedaA Double Tour is Claude Chabrol’s third feature. Not quite to his truly great period (which for me starts in 1968), this one’s still got its moments. It’s somehow more of a swinging film than other Chabrol’s. Maybe it’s the super-saturated Eastmancolor (the palette also reminds me of Purple Noonfrom a year later). Maybe it’s the musically and sexually charged opening.

Regardless, it’s still trademark Chabrol: the psychologically tortured murderer “next door” (Le Boucher), the difference in classes in one space (La Ceremonie (and also a likely homage to The Rules of the Game)), the bored upper class, the detective who is either inept or isn’t at the fore of the investigation.

Some SPOILERS below

As is frequently the case, the director’s camera is pretty active. It’s so much more fluid and classic than, say Truffaut’s or Godard’s at the time. Like in this lunch scene. Lazslo Kovacs (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, who will of course star in Breathless the next year, and use that name as an alias) sits eating ravenously, his soon-to-be mother-in-law Thérèse (Madeleine Robinson) and her son Richard (André Jocelyn) stands over them.

He really isolates Laszlo, putting him, as we’ll see from the subsequent coverage, in the only frame effectively by himself. It’s a clear strategy for where our sympathies should lie once the murder occurs.

Chabrol cuts to another angle where Henri (Jacques Dacqmine) stands in the foreground. His son walks off frame and the camera begins to pull away, revealing Elisabeth (Jeanne Valérie) frame right:

Since he already established Richard and Thérèse on one side, he now puts father and daughter on the other side. Look at how small Laszlo looks in the frame here. He’s the lynchpin of this scene.

The camera continues its dolly back, motivated by both Richard’s and Henri’s movement, and ends in a pretty stylized wide, with Henri at the bottom of the shot, facing out towards us in a high angle:

The scene is pretty color-coded. Elisabeth, Henri, and Laszlo “versus” Richard and Thérèse. Or, if you pull Henri out of the mix, the way Chabrol does in his blocking, then it’s more of a 2-on-2. But if you add that bust in, which is revealed along the way, then you’ve got four sets of eyes looking accusingly at Laszlo, despite Henri trying to avoid doing so.

A Double Tour does drag for a bit, but the time structure is interesting. Chabrol replays things from various perspectives, including an affair, shot like it could be from The Sound of Music:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 9.39.01 AM

As the investigation heats up (which it never really does, actually), and various people are cast as suspects, Chabrol’s symmetrical frames get even more so:

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 9.39.24 AM

But it’s the murder scene itself, shot in such an expressionist style, that’s really the highlight:

Can that first shot not anticipate The Servant?

So much of this is distortion, reflection, shadow. It’s distanced and impersonal, and Chabrol continues that at the end:

When we finally get a clear view it’s so far away, low to the ground as though we’re either murderer or victim, and with so much foreground. Certainly a reflection of the “tortured soul” of the murderer, this sequence (as with the very limited detective sequence) pushes the film away from noir rehash and more into Hitchcock-ian guilt (or Hitchcock rehash, if you want to be harsh).


About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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