Wedding in Blood feels like a companion piece to Claude Chabrol’ film from three years prior, Le Boucher (one of my favorites of his) in its small-town scandal of the upper-class. Even some of the sequences, here between the great Michel Piccoli and Stéphane Audran, remind of those meetings at night between Audran and Jean Yanne in the 1970 film.
In some ways, Wedding in Blood is also a return to form. I admire elements of both Ten Days Wonder and Just Before Nightfall but neither matches Chabrol’s 1968 – 1970 output. Wedding in Blood does.
Much of this is due to the unbelievably believable affair between Piccoli’s Pierre Maury and Audran’s Lucienne Delamare. It’s one of the more visceral (but not graphic) unions I can think of from the time. Chabrol doesn’t need nudity to show that the passion is real. It’s in the small embraces, and down to a kiss with a really visible trail of saliva set against the backdrop of a burning car.
I love this clip from the film, which also features Lucienne’s husband, Paul (Claude Piéplu).
Sure, this is a fantastic long take. It’s involving and kinetic. The camera is motivated and Paul dominates both composition and movement. But I’m more interested for Lucienne. This is such a great example of using a (literal) background character to drift in and out of frame. Lucienne’s choreography is no simple task. Look at her intro in the clip around 0:32. The camera motivates from Paul’s turn and hand gesture to reveal her in the background walking to camera. She stays in the relative background and we leave her, staring at Pierre as Paul takes the lens away from her. When he immediately brings it back to her (0:45), she’s got her back to us and is retreating.
The closest Lucienne gets to dominant, visually, in this scene is at 1:24. She’s in the foreground, in close-up, but she’s a statue. The camera moves around her, rather than vice versa, and again, her husband takes the frame away from her at 1:30.
1:48 is my favorite part of this clip. Lucienne drifts, of her own accord (read: she moves, the camera doesn’t move to show her) into the background of the shot. She exits, is revealed again when Paul (an obvious consistent motif here) moves, walks to us, walks away again, and turns up similarly drifting in the background of the frame around 2:57.
But none of this drifting is meaningless. Chabrol clearly communicates that when, at 3:11 and the end of the long take, the camera finally lingers on her, alone, and doesn’t move with Paul.
This is also a masterful when in relation to the moment at 4:21. Lucienne finally breaks her act and breaks down. The earlier parts of the clip then become clearer: she’s been keeping her back to us (and to Paul) to more easily keep her emotions in check. Her drifting in the background isn’t aimless beach-going or ambivalence, but in fact brewing with emotion. It’s such a nice contrast to the end of the clip where she’s in the foreground, moving, emoting, and controlling the frame.