Goodbye Beau Claude!
I don’t know how you feel about him. Perhaps you think he was just one of the young men of the New Wave that grew old. But I don’t agree. Chabrol was special and he will be surely and sadly missed here in France and Paris.
Why? Because he was so French and yet not French at all. Of course, he was part of the same French Bourgeoisie that he inspected in his films with such unflinching clarity that people often felt they were merely insects under his magnifying glass. But then, on the other hand, he was incredibly funny and self-depreciating, which is very uncharacteristic of French intellectuals and artists, among whom narcissism is the dominant attitude.
Chabrol was different, he always maintain a healthy distance between himself and the emotional disaster he was describing. That was his strength, that’s what France will bitterly miss now.
Of the New Wave directors he was actually the first: His films Le Beau Serge and The Cousins were already in the theaters when Truffaut's 400 Blows had its premier at the 1959 Cannes festival.
The red Michelin-Guide was his bible
At his 80th birthday, a few weeks ago, Chabrol said that only he and Jacques Rivette were left and this gave him a kind of licence to fool around: “I can make whatever kind of film I want to, as it is not too expensive.” He had, in fact, that licence to fool around. And everybody would forgive him because their admiration for him was huge.
Chabrol was a man with an insatiable appetite, appetite for work and life, but also for good food. The story goes that he chose his location and film spots with a red Michelin-Guide in his hand. “A good restaurant after a day at work is worth its weight in gold”, he said. Which is, I’ve got to admit, something that makes him very French again.
Fed with ox blood
The young Chabrol, whose parents were pharmacists in Paris, was actually allergic to breast milk and all other diary products. He loved to tell a story about how his mother would feed him ox blood in his baby bottle to treat his anaemia. Even it isn't true, it’s a good story, one of the self-invented-myths that made him invulnerable.
Although he adored portraying the French Bourgeoisie, Chabrol was not a Parisian filmmaker. He loved Paris, of course, but he preferred to set his stories in the French provinces, where life is like his films: nothing happens, then nothing happens, then something awful does.