The Bridesmaid

Pygmalion and Galatea go head-to-head with Oedipus in this chilling adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel The Bridesmaid by the French master of disquiet, Claude Chabrol. Handsome Philip Tardieu (Benoit Magimel) is dedicated to both his job as an assistant building contractor and, somewhat more subtly, his youthful, widowed mother Christine (Aurore Clement),...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Pygmalion and Galatea go head-to-head with Oedipus in this chilling adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel The Bridesmaid by the French master of disquiet, Claude Chabrol. Handsome Philip Tardieu (Benoit Magimel) is dedicated to both his job as an assistant building contractor and, somewhat more subtly, his youthful, widowed mother Christine (Aurore Clement), with whom he still lives along with his younger sisters Patricia (Anna Mihalcea) and the soon-to-be-married Sophie (Solene Bouton). Although he tries to be supportive of Christine's relationship with a recent divorcee named Gerard Courtois (Bernard Le Coq), Philip is obviously troubled when Christine suggests making Gerard a gift of the stone bust her late husband bought her years earlier, and Philip is just as relieved when Gerard returns from a trip to Italy and fails to call on Christine as promised. While making a routine visit to Gerard's neighborhood, Philip sneaks onto Gerard's property and steals back the bust of which he seems rather unnaturally fond, perhaps because it looks so much like his mother. Philip has a slightly more fleshly encounter at Sophie's wedding when he meets one of his sister's bridesmaids, Stephanie (Laura Smet), a cousin of Sophie's new husband who bears a striking resemblance to the bust and, by extension, Christine. Completely captivated by her strange beauty and intrigued by her even stranger life — Stephanie, who's renamed herself "Senta," lives in the dank basement flat of a rank smelling building she claims to own — Philip embarks on a passionate affair which he keeps secret from everyone but the stone head, which he takes out from its hiding place in his bedroom closet when he's sure he's alone. Senta's stories about herself ring increasingly untrue — she claims to be an actress but has no books on the subject or any plays on her bookshelf, and who, exactly, is that tango dancer upstairs who Senta first claims, then later denies, is her mother? — but what begins to trouble Philip is the intensity with which she pledges her devotion, perhaps because he begins to feel it with equal passion. She claims they are now one person and were destined to be together from time immemorial, but even a besotted Philip he is pulled up short when she suggests they prove their love to each other in the one way that will raise them above ordinary mortals bound by law and morality: killing another human being. Nearly a decade after scoring a hit with LA CEREMONIE (1995), his cool adaptation of Rendell's Judgement in Stone, the very French Chabrol once again finds a kindred spirit in that most English of mystery writers whose psychological sang-froid perfectly suits his own. Once again Chabrol tells the tale with an almost clinical detachment and discretion — the pacing is almost coldly deliberate and the camera often cuts away rather than intrude — but the upshot is well worth the wait.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Pygmalion and Galatea go head-to-head with Oedipus in this chilling adaptation of Ruth Rendell's novel The Bridesmaid by the French master of disquiet, Claude Chabrol. Handsome Philip Tardieu (Benoit Magimel) is dedicated to both his job as an assistant bu… (more)

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