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Kino on Video presents
Les Bonnes Femmes (1960)

"It isn't easy following someone. It's complicated and it takes time. I did it because I love you."
- Andre (Mario David)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: September 13, 2000

Stars: Bernadette Lafont, Clotilde Joano, Stéphanie Audran, Lucile Saint-Simon
Other Stars: Pierre Bertin, Jean-Louis Maury, Albert Dinan, Ave Ninchi, Sacha Briquet, Mario David
Director: Claude Chabrol

Manufacturer: CMCA
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:23m:00s
Release Date: September 26, 2000
UPC: 738329016524
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-B-B- D-

DVD Review

I don't know what it is about French cinema that more often than not leaves me wondering what I just witnessed as the final credits roll. It is sometime after that the true impact of the films hit home, and I found this to be the case with Claude Chabrol's Les Bonnes Femmes. A well-respected director from the new wave era, Chabrol shared the role of film reviewer alongside contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, prior to his directing career. He also co-authored a book on Alfred Hithcock with another notable French director, Eric Rohmer.

Les Bonnes Femmes tells the tale of a weekend in Paris in the lives of four girls who work at an appliance shop. As the film opens, the rambunctious Jane (Bernadette Lafont) and her subdued friend Jaqueline (Clotilde Joano) are returning home from a club one evening. On their way, two rowdy businessmen, Marcel (Jean-Louis Maury) and Albert (Albert Dinn), pull alongside in a Cadillac trying to entice the girls into an evening out. After a series of bad pick-up lines, Jane decides to go for the offer, dragging Jeanette along with her. A cheap meal, a trip to a strip club and a lot of liquor later, Jeanette bails on Marcel's suggestion of a nightcap at partner Albert's place, but Jane goes along, only to find herself being mauled by both men as we fade to black.

Returning home the next morning just in time to leave for work, we meet Jane's roommate and co-worker, Ginette (Stéphanie Audran). Arriving at the shop where they work they meet Rita (Lucile Saint-Simon), and when Jaqueline arrives five minutes late for her first day, her lecherous boss takes the opportunity to scold her in his office while outlining his expectations of her. Thus, we have our four girls, enduring a tedious day job, and subjecting themselves to the undercurrents of Parisian night life while looking for love.

We follow each girl as they search out their happiness in a gloomy 1960's Paris. Rita, the most upwardly mobile of the bunch with a bourgeois fiancée, faces a comic but humiliating first meeting with her husband-to-be's parents. She has her topics of conversation delegated to her by her fiancé: fine wines, cuisine, and Michelangelo, topics he is only superficially aware of himself. Ginette is an aspiring singer, but fears the repercussions when her work friends show up at a performance in a seedy music hall. Quiet Jaqueline is being stalked by a motorcyclist (Mario David) who appears throughout the film, an admirer who watches her through the shop windows and dogs her every activity—but is he really her dream come true or something else?

Les Bonnes Femmes takes a cold look at the differences between the desires of these young women, and the reality they all face. The cast of virtual (and beautiful) unknowns adds to the facelessness of their existence. The ending asks more questions than it answers, and as I said above, it may be a while before the impact of the film is fully felt.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Les Bonnes Femmes is presented in nonanamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen. Contrast is fairly hard, with black levels varying from scene to scene and whites tending to blow out. There is some dust and dirt present, and some aliasing, but overall the presentation is reasonable. The final half hour has a strange "raining" effect that I first attributed to the exterior location. None of these conditions is overwhelming though, and for a film of this vintage, barring a restoration, it looks quite acceptable. English subtitles are burned into the image.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel mono is servicable without a huge amount of hiss or much distortion. Limited in frequency range, the audio suits the film. I would have preferred more subtitles than are present, as much of the subtlety of dialogue is missed.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras. It would be nice to have at least some background on the picture or cast.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A disturbing, yet often comedic film. The male characters are overplayed, while the females seem more grounded in reality. The after effect is haunting. Recommended for foreign film fans interested in darker subject matter.


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