• La Rupture



    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: April 5th, 2017.
    Director: Claude Chabrol
    Cast: Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michel Bouquet, Annie Cordy, Jean-Claude Drouot
    Year: 1970

    The Movie:

    A breach cannot only mean a tear or rift, but can also refer to a breaking up or disruption of a previously friendly relationship. Claude Chabrol’s film La Rupture (English translation as indicated in the film as The Breach) is a fitting title then, as the movie captures both the division between the wealthy and poor classes in addition to the escalation of cruel behavior within a poorly defined ‘family’ structure.

    The movie begins by introducing beautiful Chabrol favorite Stéphane Audran (Les Biches, Le Boucher) as Hélène Régnier, a woman trying to take care of her small son, Michel. She does this despite the fact that she’s exhausted from working late the previous night. When her husband Charles (Jean-Claude Drouot) awakens he is in a depraved, manic state and begins to advance on Hélène. He then throws and injures their son. Hélène hits him with a frying pan to stop him and then rushes off to the hospital with Michel.

    As she waits in the hospital and begins planning to divorce Charles, her father-in-law, Ludovic Régnier (Michel Bouquet), a wealthy manufacturer, shows up. Ludovic informs her that Charles will divorce her and that he and his wife will raise Michel. A frustrated Hélène tells him the she will take Michel away as soon as possible and Mr. Régnier storms out of the hospital.

    Wanting to be near Michel as he recovers, Hélène rents a room in an old fashioned boarding house where an eccentric collection of people reside under the watchful eye of the landlord and her dysfunctional family. She proceeds to hire a lawyer and initiates the divorce process. At this point you also learn of Hélène’s background as she and her lawyer go get her belongings. She had to quit school and care for her ill father after her mother died. Then her marriage to Charles fell apart when they turned to his cold parents - upon discovering she was pregnant - for financial support. Charles turned to drugs and she was shut out by the Régniers and not allowed to care for her son. She put up with this until it was no longer bearable, and then she left with her drug-addled husband in tow.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Régnier retains a lawyer to get advice on how they can get custody of Michel. He and his wife attempt to convince the lawyer to see their side of things with stories about how Hélène is a vulgar person because she is poor and un-educated and was a former strip-tease dancer. The lawyer lets them know that it is remarkably difficult to win custody of a child over the mother, unless there are extreme insinuating circumstances.

    Frustrated by the results of the meeting, Mr. Régnier hires the penniless son of a former business associate, Paul Thomas (Jean-Pierre Cassel), to dig up some dirt on Hélène in order to try and win custody of Michel. Paul begins a campaign of telling Hélène’s friends and associates that she is a floozy and a drunkard. The hope is that her obvious financial struggles will be further impended by the lack of support from anyone she knows. He also manages to move into the boarding house after telling Hélène that he is in cancer treatment at the hospital and needs a place to stay that is nearby. He poses as an old friend of her soon to be ex-husband.

    From there, Paul drops hints and suggestions to everyone in the house that Hélène is a promiscuous lush, while dually pretending to be her friend. Frustrated that he is unable to get any dirt on her and running out of time with the divorce proceedings close to commencing, he concocts a desperate plan with his girlfriend to frame Hélène as a sexual deviant. The plan is to drug her and the mentally challenged daughter of the boarding house landlords.

    As the plan is set in motion, Hélène starts to get clues about the nature of her ‘friend’ Paul, but is still trapped in the events of his plan until she is forced to change tactics. In order to try and save her name and maintain her custody, the story takes on a bizarre twist of events that leaves everyone involved drastically affected by their actions.

    The richness of the characters and the acting are the best part of La Rupture. The barking commands and the utterly obstinate coldness of Michel Bouquet as Mr. Régnier provides a chilling example of how wealth can give people so much cruel power. Jean-Pierre Cassel is also great as the despicable Paul. He’s knowingly being used by Mr. Régnier, but still manages to sic his teeth into the destruction of Hélène using any means at his disposal.

    There is also an abundance of minor characters that add to the ethical landscape of the film. The three nosey old ladies who reside at the boarding house and comment throughout the movie on the comings and goings of residents, and the dramatic, over-the-top actor who also lives at the boarding house, provide not only much needed comic relief, but help demonstrate in different ways that some people will not choose money or power over helping those in need. The ramshackle boarding house’s drunk landlord and Paul’s sleazy and self-serving girlfriend show how some people are unapologetically not fazed by anything.

    Like most of the director’s output, the film is beautifully shot. The camera work does a great job of capturing both the lush home of the wealthy characters and the somewhat squalid conditions of the boarding house.

    Out of all of the Chabrol films I have seen, this one feels the most universal, and the most likely picture that viewers will be able to relate to. Most everyone has been on the giving or receiving end of a power struggle, and more often than not, one of a financial nature. One additional interesting aspect of the film is that while there is more than enough of a setting to comment on whether or not a wealthy person is more equipped to raise a child, and the answer is certainly hinted at with the wreck of a person that Charles Régnier is, it’s not the primary focus of the story. It’s just another way that Chabrol shows in La Rupture how controlling situations, as well as other people, are sometimes more prevailing than the welfare of those at stake.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The anamoprhic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer is better looking than the non-anamorphic US release but it’s still obviously taken from an older, softer, analogue master. Mild print damage is present throughout and the colors are always slightly faded. The end result is a fairly soft picture. It’s watchable enough, but it’s nothing to write home about.

    The only audio option on the disc is a French language Dolby Digital Mono track. It sounds fine, there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. It is a little bit flat and not as dynamic as you might hope, again, the limitations of the source used for this release are obvious. There’s a little bit of distortion in the film’s finale, a scene where the score really goes over the top and certain characters start yelling. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    There are no extra features on this disc.

    The Final Word:

    La Rupture is a must see for Chabrol fans and genre fans alike, with a large collection of extremely talented French actors cast against a rich and dynamic story that comments on class struggles and the way money can seduce and beguile. The presentation won’t blow you away but it’s watchable enough until someone wises up and starts releasing more of the director’s output on Blu-ray.