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Story of Women, June 30

Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

Friday, June 30, 2006
9:15 p.m. Story of Women
Claude Chabrol (France, 1989)

(Une affaire de femmes). In this "story" set in Occupation France, Chabrol implies that for women, fascism is life as usual. It is a film Fassbinder might have made, rich in history's innuendo, down to its blindly narcissistic heroine, Marie, driven by a will she at first skittishly, then boldly acknowledges. It is the perfect role for Huppert. A working-class mother, reluctant wife of a vaguely disabled soldier, Marie casually performs an abortion for a desperate neighbor, then figures there is money to be made in "women's business." She takes on more and more clients, and also lets out rooms to prostitutes, surrogates for her transgressive fiscal and sexual desires. But there is no place for narcissism in war, even less for cynicism. The film is based on the true story of the last woman to receive capital punishment in France.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Colo Tavernier O'Hagan, Chabrol, freely adapted from the book by Francis Szpinner. Photographed by Jean Rabier. With Isabelle Huppert, François Cluzet, Marie Trintignant, Nils Tavernier. (104 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, From French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, permission Janus/Criterion Collection)