A Piece Of Pleasure

Long before Henry Jaglom ever dreamed of such a thing, Paul and Danielle Gegauff scripted a movie about the breakup of their own marriage and decided to play the roles themselves; Claude Chabrol, the director for whom Paul Gegauff wrote all of his major scriptsin which sexism and boorishness were often a kind of specialityagreed to direct. The results are nasty, shocking, and singular: the tyrannical husband begins by insisting on an open marriage, is appalled after his wife starts taking advantage of this opportunity, and winds up being imprisoned for nearly killing her; and, as often happens in Chabrol films, it is the offspringin this case the couple’s little girlwho winds up bearing the brunt of the tragedy. Chabrol and the late Gegauff always made a rather interesting teamthe former’s ironic distance on the latter’s cultivation of megalomania and swinishness always gave their collaborations a fascinatingly ambiguous edge in such films as Les cousins and This Man Must Dieand this film represents in some ways the apotheosis of their work together, for better and for worse. Rarely has such unpleasantness been so compulsively watchable (1976).

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