Review: Comedy of Power

Trekkies believe in a curse on odd-numbered Star Trek movies.

Comedy of Power
Photo: Koch Lorber Films

Trekkies believe in a curse on odd-numbered Star Trek movies. I have a theory that every other Claude Chabrol production sucks. Case in point: Comedy of Power, a film only a person with a low pulse rate might consider a good time. Loosely based on a real-life scandal, this inert trifle casts Isabelle Huppert as Jeanne Charmant Killman, a Parisian judge who is relentless in her quest to prosecute an elite constituency of men who misappropriated funds from the state-supported company that employs them. One by one, Jeanne will go after these snakes, dragging them into her office, flaunting proof of their indiscretions, and blowing smoke in their faces. Or is it up their asses? You see, as the film creaks slowly along, with everyone nervously scratching themselves as if Uncle Ed from Stella Dallas had put itching powder on their hands, it becomes clear that Jeanne is struggling with her own power trip and arsenal of tics. Could it be that she’s the bad one here? (True to her namesake, Madame Killman’s persistence lands at least one man in the hospital.) The rationale or endgame for her obsession is of no interest to Chabrol or co-writer Odile Barsk, meaning we must take her behavior as a given. But we shouldn’t have to submit to such an unimaginative profile of a woman, who stuffs some clothes into a bag and moves out of her apartment as soon as her loving husband objects to her fixation with her work for the very first time. Things get interesting when Huppert’s Cagney is saddled with Maryline Canto’s Lacey from down the hall, at which point a feminist perspective emerges from this bloodlessly staged drama, except this angle is probed as if were a dead thing writhing on a piece of wood. Is there a point to the decreasing distance put between Jeanne and her husband’s nephew as the film progresses? As unsure as his actors, Chabrol ends the film with an clueless putter of an idea, disappointing us but buying himself time while he no doubt prepares to wow us with his upcoming The Girl Cut in Half.

Score: 
 Cast: Isabelle Huppert, François Berléand, Patrick Bruel, Marilyne Canto, Robin Renucci, Thomas Chabrol, Jean-François Balmer, Pierre Vernier, Jacques Boudet, Philippe Duclos, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, Roger Dumas, Yves Verhoeven  Director: Claude Chabrol  Screenwriter: Odile Barsk, Claude Chabrol  Distributor: Koch Lorber Films  Running Time: 110 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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