Violette Nozière gave Cinema: A Critical Dictionary editor Richard Roud the rare occasion to editorialize that a once-great French filmmaker had returned to form—which, at the time, put director Claude Chabrol in the thin company of Alain Resnais (with Providence), Chris Marker (with A Grin Without a Cat), and pretty much no one else. Violette is, if not much else, some kind of throwback. Two scenes in, and the titular femme noir (played by Isabelle Huppert with what turned out to be an inexhaustible willingness to tackle fiercely slappable characters) is clutching her jet-black fur collar to her jawbone while her freshly-bobbed girlfriend scoffs at the bespectacled bookworms fighting over socialism at the local bar. “Such bores with their politics,” giggles said friend, while Violette smirks and breaks off half of some temperamental student’s panini and asks him, “Do you want to sleep with me?” In the next scene, she’s shown wiping the slut lipstick off her mouth, hiding her stockings and walking up to meet her frumpy mother (a bravely against-type Stéphane Audran). We’ve all been here before, and so has syphilis. But Violette doesn’t so much rejuvenate the “sex = death” equation that had been in place since Louise Brooks opened Pandora’s Box as it does struggle to remember why women want sex in the first place. If the true-life case of Miss Nozière is accurately reflected in Chabrol’s plodding, obvious melodrama, it’s not sex that women are even after but the desire to out-whore their mothers. As it turns out, Mrs. Nozière berates, shames, and eventually presses charges against her daughter not over Violette’s attempt to kill both parents with poison (and successfully bumping off her father) but because, years ago, Mr. Nozière bounced the budding girl in his lap a little too vigorously. Hence, sex has very little to do with anything resembling attraction to the entire race of political bores and STD-carrying gigolos and a whole lot more to do with the sudden disgust a mother can feel toward a daughter reaching sexual maturity…or maybe the resentment a daughter can feel toward her mother once she realizes her parental stability was likely founded on the classic bartering system of faking orgasms…or maybe there is no lesson to be learned from Violette’s example. Maybe one hardly needs a film to see that mankind is incapable of having good sex without it revealing their other various ineptitudes.
Whatever formal intrigue Chabrol may have brought to Violette's dull plot certainly isn't allowed to emerge from another of Koch Lorber's unacceptable transfers. I'm no fan of the film, but I can't imagine why even stanch defenders would acquiesce to paying retail price for what is no better than a bootleg disc. Every bright hue in the picture looks burned in, and is bordered along the right side with black lines. All the colors in the middle and darker side of the spectrum are so edge-enhanced it almost looks like you're seeing double. I can't seem to find any information online about the film's aspect ratio, but I'd be surprised if this disc's full frame mess is correct. The sound is better only in the sense that we're all more accustomed to accepting aural defects in older films than we are visual imperfections. An all around scummy presentation.
A collection of other Koch Lorber DVD titles you'd be a fool for wanting to buy after watching the abuse they inflicted on Violette.
Koch Lorber cocks another one up.