Color, 1985, 109 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Jean Poiret, Stéphane Audran, Michel Bouquet, Jean Topart, Lucas Belvaux
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL), Kimstim (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Color, 1986, 100 mins. 13 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Jean Poiret, Jean-Claude Brialy, Bernadette Lafont, Jean-Luc Bideau
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL), Kimstim (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Color, 1991, 142 mins. 38 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-François Balmer, Christophe Malavoy, Jean Yanne, Lucas Belvaux
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), MGM (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)

Color, 1992, 103 mins. 32 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Marie Trintignant, Stéphane Audran, Jean-François Garreaud, Yves Lambrecht, Christiane Minazzoli
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Color, 1994, 102 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Emmanuelle Béart, François Cluzet, Nathalie Cardone
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), Wellspring (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)

Color, 1997, 105 mins. 36 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Michel Serrault, François Cluzet, Jean-François Balmer, Jackie Berroyer
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Color, 1999, 112 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin, Antoine de Caunes, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Bernard Verley, Bulle Ogier
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL), Kino Video (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Color, 2000, 100 mins. 52 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc, Rodolphe Pauly, Anna Mouglalis
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), Cohen Media Group (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Artificial Eye (DVD) (UK R2 PAL), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9), First Run (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.55:1)

Color, 2003, 104 mins. 47 secs. / 100 mins. 55 secs.
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Starring Nathalie Baye, Benoît Magimel, Suzanne Flon, Bernard Le Coq, Mélanie Doutey Mélanie Doutey, Thomas Chabrol
Arrow Video (Blu-ray) (US/UK RA/RAB HD), MK2 (Blu-ray & DVD) (France RB/R2 PAL), Palm Pictures (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Often grouped as part of the Cop Au VinFrench New Wave but somehow existing just outside of it for much of his Cop Au Vincareer, Claude Chabrol was the one who most passionately embraced the suspense film with a fervor that frequently drew comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock. However, his style is completely different with a wry sense of irony that managed to say some very biting things about social class, age gaps, and gender differences while doling out clever plot twists. He also managed to attract some of the best actors around, giving them showcases no other director could have provided including his most frequent his latter day muse, Isabelle Huppert. Though his most lauded period from 1968 to 1971 remains insanely neglected and entirely unrepresented on Blu-ray anywhere in the world, Arrow Video has given a welcome spotlight to his later, equally rewarding work in a pair of box sets covering highlights from 1985 to 2003: Lies and Deceit: Five Films by Claude Chabrol and Twisting the Knife: Four Films by Claude Chabrol. The bulk of these films have been on Blu-ray before, but these releases are a handy way to get them in simple batches featuring a wealth of new and archival extras.

Seen as something of a return for Chabrol after a few years of working in television and oddities like The Blood of Others, Cop Au Vin (originally released as Poulet au vinaigre, a punny title literally meaning Chicken with Vinegar) introduced Jean Poiret's Cop Au VinInspector Lavardin, a violence-prone character Chabrol would revisit multiple times. Here the detective is called in to investigate the death of a village Cop Au Vinbutcher who, along with attorney Lavoisier (Bouquet) and town doctor Morasseau (Topart), has been harassing young Louis (Belvaux) and his invalid mother to gain control of their property. However, there might be more going on with their plan than meets the eye. A mixture of cozy French countryside mystery and hardboiled cop film, this one is pure Chabrol with its fraught domestic lifestyles, secretive bourgeois characters, and a juicy part for his onetime wife and frequent secret weapon, the great Stéphane Audran. Lavardin actually comes into the action fairly late all things considered, but he makes such a strong impression it's no wonder the character caught on. As usual for Chabrol it isn't really visually flashy but always intriguing to look at, including a long subjective sequence from a clicking camera at a nocturnal garden party showing us some clues that will come into play later on after Louis keys one of the cars.

Strangely given very little international play in the mid-'80s outside of France and Germany, Cop Au Vin first turned up on U.S. DVD in 2005 from Kimstim featuring a so-so, PAL-sourced transfer with English subtitles. It didn't get a bona fide U.S. theatrical run until 2014 as part of a Chabrol series shown at some metropolitan art houses, with a Blu-ray debuting in 2016 as part of the two-film Inspector Lavardin Collection. Extras on that release include the reissue trailer, a solid commentary by Wade Major and Andy Klein, and 1988's The Black Snail (91m56s), a Chabrol-directed installment in the made-for-TV movie series The Secret Files of Inspector Lavardin, presented 1:33:1 as shot and looking pretty solid despite being in standard definition.

The 2022 release from Arrow Cop Au VinVideo (the first disc in the Lies and Deceit set) features a Cop Au Vincompletely different slate of bonus features starting with a fine new commentary by Ben Sachs who takes up a scholarly reading of the film interpreting the symbolism of the locations and character placements, the theme of nefarious activity beneath the surface, and the ins and outs of Chabrol's personal life at the time as well as his career including the family affair mode of his work. A interview with Ian Christie (12m35s) covers his memories and appreciation of Chabrol from their time interviewing together and his thoughts on the filmmaker's work, while a complete 1994 interview between them at the BFI at the National Film Theatre (74m35s) covering his early Cahiers du cinema days (and his status as a rare native Parisian among the French New Wave gang) through his late career resurgence. Pulled from the film's French DVD release are an intro by film scholar Joël Magny (3m14s) and select scene commentaries by Chabrol (21m43s), plus you get a fantastic 1985 episode of the Swiss TV show Special Cinema (29m38s) featuring Chabrol, Poiret, and Audran talking about the film with director Francis Reusser and actress Isabel Otero. Also included are the wild French theatrical trailer (featuring a very Hitchcockian appearance by Chabrol himself) and a gallery of posters and still. As for the film itself, the transfer is considerably cleaner than the Cohen release (removing a lot of specks and scratches) with finer detail and color timing that adds a yellow bias throughout (much more on that later) and has more of an overcast look. The Inspector LavardinLPCM French 1.0 mono track sounds great and features optional English Inspector Lavardinsubtitles. Like the rest of the films in these sets, this was also released on Blu-ray in France by MK2 via Carlotta Films with no English-friendly options.

Hot on the heels of that film came Inspector Lavardin, with Poiret returning for another savage dissection of the upper class by his take-no-prisoner cop. However, the tone here is quite a bit lighter and even goofy at times starting with the opening in which a family dinner is interrupted by townspeople protesting a theater troupe in town with a show called Our Father Who Farts in Heaven. The play gets canceled on the grounds of blasphemy, but Mr. Mons, the Catholic patriarch who made the decision, then ends up naked and dead on the coastline with the word "PIG" written on his back. Now transferred (presumably thanks to his sometimes brutal methods), Lavardin shows up to investigate and ends up reconnecting with the widow, Hélène (Lafont), with whom he'd had a romance twenty years earlier. Her very boisterous brother, Claude (French New Wave staple Brialy), is something of a loafer staying around the house apparently because he can, and soon Lavardin is sifting through the family secrets trying to find out what led to this sudden death.

Another fun whodunit with Lavardin being even more questionable in his profession than before, this one has a very Agatha Christie air at times with its many characters skulking around the garden and quirky family members often behaving very badly. Poiret gets center Inspector Lavardinstage this time and has fun with the part, getting Inspector Lavardinmore character development here as well as a backstory to play with. Like the preceding one, this got very limited play outside of France until the DVD era when English-subtitled releases started popping up in the U.S. and in Europe. The first Blu-ray from Cohen (as mentioned above) was a big leap at the time and still holds up well, apart from some minor damage again here. That release features another Major and Klein commentary track, the 2014 reissue trailer, and 1989's Danger Lies in the Words (94m14s) directed by Chabrol from the The Secret Files of Inspector Lavardin TV movies.

The Arrow release again features a different slate of extras starting with a new track by Sachs that logically functions as a sort of sequel and companion piece, with topics ranging from the gourmet Chabrol's penchant for dining scenes to some funny dialogue nods to Brialy's bisexuality. As with the other track, there are quite a few long silent gaps scattered around but what's here is substantial. The new "Why Chabrol?" (16m7s) features film critic Sam Wigley exploring Chabrol's place in the French New Wave, his auspicious debut with Le Beau Serge, and the reason he's still relevant today. Also included are an archival introduction by Magny (2m46s), select scene commentaries by Claude Chabrol (33m58s) focusing on the challenge of honing in on Lavardin's character this time, another marvelous French trailer hosted by a pip-smoking Chabrol doing a press conference that interacts with the film, and a poster and stills gallery. Transfer-wise this is a similar story, cleaning up some element damage and featuring better detail while visibly veering more to the yellow Madame Bovaryside with much deeper blacks in the Madame Bovaryprocess.

After that we jump past a particularly wild period in Chabrol's output (Masks, The Cry of the Owl, Story of Women, Quiet Days in Clichy, and Dr. M) to arrive at his most prestigious cinematic export, 1991's Madame Bovary. Though it's tempting to read this as an attempt to gain international traction again, it was actually a longstanding passion project for Chabrol for many years and provided a strong showcase for Isabelle Huppert. This is one of the many filmed adaptations of Gustave Flaubert's once scandalous novel, one of the most influential in literary history, which not only tackled infidelity but added the element of a woman attempting to rise above her class with tragic results. Set in Northern France, Chabrol's film dispenses with the opening setup as we find Emma (Huppert) arranging a marriage with a recently widowed doctor, Charles Bovary (Balmer). However, she becomes increasingly frustrated with their modest, dull lifestyle and, inspired by an experience at a ball, embarks on affairs with law student Léon (Belvaux) and then landowner Rodolph (Malavoy). In the process she becomes financially careless, threatening to expose her actions to her husband.

Beautifully mounted and faithful to as much of the novel as it chooses to adapt, Chabrol's film is the only one in these sets that doesn't fall under into the thriller genre but still feels very much in line with his filmmaking method. He and Huppert always make a great team, and this one is really enhanced if you're able to enjoy it as a Madame Bovaryprogression of their two heralded prior collaborations, Violette and Story of Women. The rest of the cast is fine as well though, particularly Malavoy (who seems to be incapable of giving a bad performance), and the production design and costumes Madame Bovaryare all convincing. Given a U.S. theatrical run by The Samuel Goldwyn Company, this one fell to MGM for several years which led to a disappointing DVD that fell afoul of their ludicrous policy to never offer 16x9 enhancement for films framed at 1.66:1. Fortunately you can toss that dud of a disc aside thanks to the Arrow release, which looks vastly superior in every way. It's also fairly heavy on the gold look but that works in this case, and the level of detail here is very satisfying. The film also comes with a new commentary by Kat Ellinger, and it's a slam dunk -- possibly one of her very best, and an essential companion to the film itself. Loaded with info and insights about the source novel, Chabrol's approach to the source material, the role of the story in world literature and the perceptions of women, and tons more, the track fills out the entire film nonstop (which is no easy feat given it's well over two hours). Also very worthwhile is "Imagining Emma: Madame Bovary On Screen" (16m6s), a video essay by film historian Pamela Hutchinson that examines how this film compares to other versions including the fine one by Jean Renoir, the much-altered Hollywood version by Vincente Minnelli, and even a Bollywood variation and affiliated titles like Ryan's Daughter. Ported over from the earlier French release are an archival Magny intro (2m31s) and Chabrol Bettyselect scene commentaries (37m59s), Bettyplus the trailer and a gallery.

With his next film, Chabrol tackled another literary adaptation but went back more within his usual wheelhouse with 1992's Betty, an adaptation of a Georges Simenon mystery. Clearly traumatized and descending into destructive alcoholism, Betty (Trintignant) ends up commiserating at a bar with fellow heavy drinker Laure (Audran in her final Chabrol appearance), an elegant widow who offers to take in the poor woman in with a room at her hotel to help get back on her feet. Currently in a relationship with the bar's own, Mario (Gerreaud), Laure will come to regret that decision as Betty reveals more about her tragic past involving a doomed marriage and some seriously nasty in-laws. In the process, Betty's own darker tendencies will come to the surface.

Though it definitely looks and feels like a typical Chabrol thriller, Betty is something quite different since its suspense lies in the interaction between the two women, their shifting power dynamic, and the onion-like revelations about what drove Betty to her current state. Anyone expecting huge plot twists or shocking murders may be frustrating, but it's a compelling dramatic experience with some striking visual Bettyembellishments Chabrol added to the narrative (especially that recurring fish Bettytank). This film is also significant since it was the first Chabrol thriller to get really significant international distribution for well over a decade, and its positive reception in the U.S. in particular paved the way for his remarkable career resurgence that really took hold with his 1995 masterpiece La Cérémonie, ensuring every film afterward would find a global audience to some extent.

Readily available on video in the U.S., U.K., and France in various permutations over the years, Betty first turned up on Blu-ray from Cohen Media Group in 2017 (as a triple feature with Torment and The Swindle, which we'll get to.) The transfer looked very nice and accurately reflected the eerie, chilly look seen theatrically, but the film is given short shift with only a trailer and a liner notes booklet provided. The Arrow disc treats it far more respectfully starting with Ellinger commentary track that gives a critical reading of the film with a particularly perceptive early bit about the way female addiction is viewed by society and popular culture. She also goes into Simenon, Bettythe differences from the novel, the similarities to other works of European cinema, and much more. (One debit though for calling BettyAudran "Stephanie" the whole time.) The very interesting "Betty, from Simenon to Chabrol" (16m16s) is a new video essay by film historian Ginette Vincendeau who goes really deep into the differences between the novel and film including more about that aquarium, the role of first-person narration, and the correlations between the writing style and Chabrol's visual interpretations. Seen earlier as the translator in that Chabrol NFT appearance, Ros Schwartz appears in a great interview (15m21s) chatting about her experiences as the English translator of the Simenon novel and the general challenges of tackling different authors who make each job completely different. Keeping with the pattern, you also get an archival Magny intro (2m57s), Chabrol select scene commentaries (32m21s), the short and enigmatic French trailer, and an image gallery. The downside is that here the yellow cast goes into overdrive, giving the film a radically different look than it ever had in theaters or other video releases. Otherwise it's crisp and more detailed throughout, if you can get past the color timing that's very similar to what we've seen on a lot of L'Immagine Ritrovata restorations (most infamously The Good, The Bad and the Ugly).

TormentFinally the first set concludes with Tormentthe most harrowing film of the bunch by a long shot, 1994's Torment, better known theatrically around the world by its original French title, L'enfer (or Hell). This one's particularly significant in French cinema history due to its origins as a doomed project by Henri-Georges Clouzot, which was unfinished in 1964 due to a raft of unforeseen problems. The existing footage was eventually transformed into Serge Bromberg's documentary, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, but in the interim Chabrol himself shot the script himself with Emmanuelle Béart and François Cluzet as Nelly and Paul, a married couple running a hotel outside of the big city. However, Paul starts to believe Nelly is having various affairs around the premises, something exacerbated when her demeanor seems to change at the drop of a hat. It doesn't take long to figure out that Paul is the real problem here since he's soon revealed to be completely despicable and paranoid, a situation that soon escalates into horrific territory.

Almost entirely a showcase for the two leads with a few minor characters drifting in and out, Torment lives up to its title with a portrayal of domestic hell that would've been really interesting to see unleashed on viewers back in the '60s. Newcomers to Chabrol probably shouldn't start here as it's a much more claustrophobic and consistently brutal experience than usual for him, but it's also impeccably made and leads to an unsettling open ending of the kind he really seemed to perfect to an art. TormentOf course, it's also fascinating to see one master bringing to life the dream project of another, similar in theory to what Spielberg did with Kubrick's A.I. but obviously worlds apart in Tormentexecution.

Torment first turned up on DVD in the U.S. from Wellspring in one of the worst presentations of any film from a commercial label; it was flat letterboxed (barely) with horrific video noise, murky colors, muddy blacks, blurry burned-in subtitles... just an eyesore all around. The French DVD (with English subtitles) was a big improvement, but that was outdone by the 2016 Cohen Blu-ray that still comes closest to the theatrical look (at least judging by the U.S. release). The edition featured another thorough commentary by Major and Klein, plus a reissue trailer. The Arrow release is tied with Betty as the yellowest of the entire bunch, looking wildly different from any other version out there and bordering on Reflections in a Golden Eye territory at times. This is also the only film in the set that was released in stereo, which is reflected in the nice 2.0 English DTS-HD MA mix here with optional English subtitles. A new audio commentary features Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson chatting about the film's Clouzot history, its depiction of gender roles,Chabrol's career at the time, and much more. In the archival "On Henri Georges Clouzot" (11m44s), Chabrol talks about the original basis for the film and the circumstances under which he ended up having the project cross paths with him. Then an interview with Chabrol's most frequent producer, Marin Karmitz (25m49s), charts their work together including the commercial expectations of their collaborations, the variety of projects they undertook, the comparatively low budgets that allowed so many films to be cranked out (averaging about once a year), and the actors they brought aboard along the way. Also included are an archival Magny introduction (3m15s), Chabrol's select scene commentaries (39m25s), the French trailer, and an image TormentTormentgallery.

And on we move to the second set, Twisting the Knife, which continues in chronological order with four consecutive films starting with one of Chabrol's most buoyant films of the era, 1997's The Swindle (originally Rien ne va plus). Here Huppert and the great Michel Serrault get teamed up as Betty and Victor, a pair of con artists we first see luring a lonely convention attendee with her wiles at the roulette table -- only to drug him in his hotel room and pilfer from his belongings. Victor's one caveat is that they never go whole hog and only take what won't be noticed, a tactic Betty seems to disregard when she sets her sights on money launderer Maurice (Cluzet). She talks Victor into helping her snag a case full of cash right under his nose, but this job might be way more than they can handle.

Though it does have some violence, this is a sleek sting movie with pros Huppert and Serrault playing off each other very well against some ridiculously gorgeous landscapes. What might be most shocking here is how Chabrol chooses to end the tale, not with major twists or shocks but with a complete focus on the characters and what they mean to each other. TormentIt's clear he assumes we've seen our fair share of con artist movies and already know the ropes, so what you get here are some welcome diversions from the formula with a very wry and sunny Huppert doing a complete 180 from her previous Chabrol film, La TormentCérémonie. Released in the U.S. by New Yorker Films both theatrically and on VHS, this eventually went over to Cohen for a pretty nice Blu-ray release in 2016 featuring a Major and Klein commentary, a reissue trailer, and a "Many Forms of Love" interview with Cluzet (42m32s) by New York Film Festival director Kent Jones covering the actor's work with Chabrol. The Arrow Blu-ray is the only one of the second batch to retain the yellow leaning, though it's toned down here relatively speaking and not that bad once your eyes get used to it after a while. Otherwise it looks good with fine detail throughout. A new commentary by Barry Forshaw and Sean Hogan helps put the film in context within Chabrol's career and really goes into the nature of how his tendency to crank out films at a rapid pace hampered his status among the auteur-centric crowd but ultimately may have helped him in the long run. In "Chabrol’s 'Soap Bubble'" (14m36s), Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze (author of Claude Chabrol: The Aesthetics of Opacity) uses Chabrol's own term for this film (thus the title) as a jumping-off point for analyzing some of his more playful efforts like this and Blue Panther, with an exploration of how production design choices reflect his twisty stories. The Zoom conversation "Film as a Family Affair" (38m11s) features Chabrol's stepdaughter and frequent assistant, Cécile Maistre-Chabrol, chatting about her first exposure to show business through the theater, their working relationship, his pun-loving personality, and his methods on set. Also included are a Magny intro (2m28s) about the film's significance to Chabrol despite its middling box office reception in France, scene specific Chabrol commentaries (24m20s), an EPK-style vintage making-of featurette (8m22s) with the cast and crew, an interview with Huppert (25m38s) conducted by MK2 covering her first meeting with Chabrol and their working process together, the French trailer, and a stills gallery.

The Color of LiesNext we move to 1999's The The Color of LiesColor of Lies (Au cœur du mensonge), a fascinating little game of narrative bait and switch set in Brittany. The close-knit community is rocked when a ten-year-old girl is found slain in the woods, with suspicion immediately falling on the last person to see her alive after school, art teacher René (Gamblin). As rumors spread around town, the chief of police, Frédérique (Tedeschi), doesn't help the perception that he's responsible, a development that puts a strain on his relationship with his optimistic wife, Vivianne (Bonnaire), a local nurse. Complicating things even further is the presence of a TV reporter, Germain-Roland (de Caunes), who seems to be forming a potentially romantic connection with Vivianne.

The central couple is really the heart of this film, with René as an unusual "wrong man" figure (or is he?) whose own background hides a trauma that's left him avoiding painting people's faces. The love triangle aspect doesn't quite go as you'd expect, nor does the murder mystery angle (the element that might confound newcomers to Chabrol in particular). What really turns out to be the focus here is the strained relationship and how it buckles under the strain of the law and public opinion, making it a sort of modern The Color of Liesspiritual successor to Clouzot's Le corbeau. Despite the rather bland title, this one's also been available on home video pretty much nonstop since its release including a theatrical run and DVD from Kino. Cohen eventually The Color of Liesinherited it for Blu-ray and a theatrical rerelease along with most of the titles mentioned above, with a transfer that looked pretty decent -- neither the best nor the worst, and adhering to the original cool color scheme with some visible edge enhancement being the only real irritant. Extras on that disc include a Major and Klein commentary and the 2014 reissue trailer. That same transfer is replicated verbatim on the Arrow disc, which is fine. A new audio commentary by Forshaw and Hogan is another brisk chat about the frequent Hitchcock comparisons, the recurring nasty fates for children, the influence of Fritz Lang, and more. In "Nothing Is Sacred" (13m57s), film critic Scout Tafoya provides a video essay looking at how the 70-year-old filmmaker adopting music, art, and other aesthetic devices to keep his work current while maintaining his own distinctive style. Also included are a great behind the scenes featurette (25m47s) with tons of production footage, an archive introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (2m33s), select scene commentaries by Chabrol (20m8s), the French trailer, and an image gallery. The announced specs list also has a David Kalat piece, "What's Eating Claude Chabrol?," which seems to have gotten dropped along the way.

NightcapThe sixth pairing of the chameleon-like Huppert and Chabrol, Nightcap (released Nightcaptheatrically almost everywhere as Merci pour le chocolat) returns the director to his standard territory of sadistic mind games, filled with characters either brimming with psychosis or clueless to the dangers around them. As with many of his previous thrillers, Chabrol adapts a mannered British literary mystery (in this case, Charlotte Armstrong's The Chocolate Cobweb) and transforms it into a work that is undeniably stamped with his eccentric and irresistible personality. In the Swiss province of Lausanne, elegant chocolate magnate and newly married Mika (Huppert) enjoys a tranquil life with her pianist husband, André (pop star Dutronc). Also on the scene are Guillaume (Pauly), André's son from a previous marriage (which ended when his first wife died in a violent car accident), and young Jeanne ( Mouglalis), a young piano prodigy who learns of a hospital mix-up in which André thought she might be his daughter. Jeanne slowly wiles her way into the maestro's life, much to Mika's frustration; even more strangely, Jeanne begins to suspect that Mika might be tampering with the family's hot chocolate.

Riddled with in-jokes and moments of self-reflexive humor, Nightcap is primarily a showcase for the always watchable Huppert who anchors the story with a wry sense of menace that never fully erupts even during the oddly haunting final scene. Though the film constantly threatens to veer into melodramatic suspense, Chabrol instead tightens the screws in an entirely different manner by keeping the viewer in the dark about character motivations and whether any genuine threat exists. Almost a deadpan comedy, this is certainly lighter Chabrol compared to the explosive viciousness erupting in some of his other work around the same period like Cry of the Owl; Nightcapit's almost quaint in its quirky, stylish focus on a bourgeois family coming apart at the seams due to a few skeletons in the Nightcapcloset.

Nightcap first appeared on DVD in a pair of Region 2 PAL releases. The first from MK2 features French audio with no subtitles options but does boast a sharp, anamorphically enhanced 1.66:1 transfer. On the other hand, the British DVD release from Artificial Eye is a visual disaster. Though 16:9 enhanced and quite sleek-looking, the 1.85:1 transfer loses significant chunks of information from the top and bottom of the screen, leaving many compositions way out of balance with characters' faces and eyebrows constantly scraping the edge of the frame. The American disc from First Run is something of a compromise between the two; it's subtitled and more correctly framed, but not 16:9 enhanced. Subtitles on both the U.K. and U.S. DVDs are unfortunately burned in, but they're clear and always legible. Things get trickier when it comes to the extras. The French and British discs include an interview with Huppert (the latter with optional English subtitles), a 25-minute documentary showing the pipe-puffing Chabrol behind the scenes, Mouglalis' screen test, as well as a bounty of Chabrol-related text extras. The U.S. disc contains a text introduction by Chabrol, bios, and a photo gallery. All three discs include the French theatrical trailer (which is misframed so badly on the UK disc the stars' names vanish off the top of the screen).

The eventual Cohen Blu-ray turned out to be the worst of the bunch by a long shot, swerving the originally rich color scheme far off to a heavy shade of blue with extremely flat, weak Nightcapblack levels that sap out almost all of the film's visual punch. Extras on that release include a Major and Klein commentary and the 2014 reissue trailer, so at least it's worth hanging on Nightcapfor the chat track if nothing else. Here the Arrow Blu-ray features a new 4K master that turns out to be a massive improvement in every possible way, delivering the best presentation of either Chabrol set and finally nailing the original theatrical appearance of the film. It's a real beauty. Justine Smith provides a really interesting new commentary that takes a different approach from the others in the set, sprinkling some background info here and there but coming off more like a conversation pointing out actor choices and interpretations along the way as well as her reading of how we're supposed to absorb the creative choices. It's a wise move as we've been inundated with Chabrol info by this point, coming off more like watching the film live with a perceptive film buff making you privy to her thought processes about the film. Very nicely done. Tafoya returns for "When I Pervert Good..." (11m15s), a short but worthwhile analysis of this film as an exemplar of Chabrol's approach as a grand master in the last decade of his career with his family members regularly involved as well. Then you get an archival Magny intro (3m11s), Chabrol scene commentaries (43m48s), the archival Huppert DVD interview (7m6s) about Chabrol's love of paradoxes, a funny archival interview with Dutronc (32m2s) puffing on the biggest cigar you've ever seen while sitting at the piano, the vintage making-of featurette (26m5s), a screen test for Anna Mouglalis (10m33s), the French trailer, and an image gallery.

The Flower of EvilFinally we reach Chabrol's 50th feature, The Flower of Evil2003's The Flower of Evil (La fleur du mal), which is actually a lot more cheerful and ultimately benign than the title might make you believe. Here the great Nathalie Baye heads a lively ensemble cast as Anne, the middle-aged wife in a wine-loving family in Bourdeaux who opens some skeletons in the closet when she decides to run for local public office. Essentially the gatekeeper for the family's security is the perpetually smiling eldest member, Aunt Line (Flon), while young lawyer François (Magimel) has just returned home from a years-long stay in America. He also has a very romantic attraction to his stepsister, psych student Michèle (Doutey), while old secrets involving Nazi sympathies within the family are tied to rumors of a possible homicide in their family tree. All of that comes to a head when poison pen leaflets start turning up that seem to be sabotaging Anne's campaign... and as we well know from the opening credits, a dead body's going to turn up sooner or later.

Chabrol's tweaking of the bourgeoisie is even more overt here than usual, complete with the spectacle of the family munching down on lampreys. There aren't any really major plot twists here as much as a gradual revealing of the layers of tragic secrets within the family, something that spurs a fateful turn at the end that might hint at something more optimistic to come. The Flower of EvilIt's all handled in a subdued fashion (even the quasi-incestuous elements), complete with the usual stunning countryside scenery and some key bits involving bodies of water. Flon is especially good here with a juicy role that gives her the strongest The Flower of Evilmaterial, and while the ultimate effect can seem a bit lightweight compared to his top tier work, it's unquestionably Chabrol from start to finish and quite enjoyable as a kind of cinematic snack.

Initially picked up by Palm Pictures in the U.S., The Flower of Evil was very poorly served by their DVD release featuring a PAL-sourced master that wasn't properly converted for time or frame rate playback; thus it turns too fast and features a lot of motion streaking. The Arrow release marks what seems to be the first English-friendly Blu-ray around and, with a new 4K restoration, looks immeasurably better in every way. The color timing looks accurate, the detail is satisfying, and blacks are nice and deep throughout. All of the films in this second box feature PCM 2.0 French stereo tracks, but this one and Nightcap also come with 5.1 options that add a bit more ambient separation when it comes to music and atmospheric sound effects like crashing waves and wind. The Palm DVD (which also had 5.1 and 2.0 options) came with a trailer, photo gallery, and family tree diagram leading to cast The Flower of Eviland crew bios, but the Blu-ray easily leaves it in the dust starting with a thorough commentary by Farran Smith Nehme. She starts off with The Flower of Evila general overview of Chabrol starting with his famous early days before honing in more on the film itself including its place as a late career entry, the overall perception of him at the time and as a member of the Nouvelle Vague, and the ramifications of the Nazi subplot (which makes this an interesting sort of fictional sequel to his harrowing documentary, The Eye of Vichy). In "Behind the Masks: Remembering Claude Chabrol" (14m30s), Agnès C. Poirier (author of Left Bank: Arts, Passion and the Rebirth of Paris 1940-1950) shares her own memories of Chabrol including many of his observations about life and art as well as his passion as a gourmand. Then you get an archival Magny intro (3m31s), more select scene Chabrol commentaries (49m29s), an archival behind-the-scenes featurette (25m36s) featuring interviews with Chabrol and the cast, an archival interview with screenwriter Catherine Eliacheff (24m47s) noting the points of similarity between the later films including the prominent roles for women, the French trailer, and an image gallery. Both sets (with artwork designed by Tony Stella) each come with an 80-page collector's booklet featuring essays from Martyn Conterio, Ellinger, Philip Kemp, Sam Wigley, Hogan, Brad Stevens, Dousteyessier-Khoze, Heller-Nicholas, and Pamela Hutchinson, along with archival material.

COP AU VIN: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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COP AU VIN: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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INSPECTOR LAVARDIN: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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MADAME BOVARY: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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BETTY: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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BETTY: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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TORMENT: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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TORMENT: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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THE SWINDLE: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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THE SWINDLE: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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THE COLOR OF LIES: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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THE COLOR OF LIES: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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NIGHTCAP: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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NIGHTCAP: Cohen Media Group Blu-ray

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THE FLOWER OF EVIL: Arrow Video Blu-ray

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Reviewed on April 15, 2022