Backlog #28: Madame Bovary (1991)

Arrow Films’ eight-film boxset “The Claude Chabrol Collection” features seven films that the titled director made between 1968-74, all psychological crime thrillers, all low-key slow burners snugly housed within Les Trentes Glorieuses and all very good (four in my view, as I will outline later, are brilliant).

The last and latest, in this extremely good value collection of classic French cinema, was made twenty years after the rest and stands apart from the rest so much, you’d think the compiler was either ignorant, padding the box out or just having a bit of a joke. The eighth film in the collection is a competent literary adaption, of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Well-made, yes. Worthy, more than a little. Interesting, not really.

The performances are all perfectly fine. Jean Yanne’s charisma is still there and actors playing Bovary and Rodolphe are more than OK. As the heroine, Isabelle Huppert is superb as you’d expect, but she’s too old really (although her casting isn’t quite as memorably misguided as that of Audrey Tatou as Thérèse Desqueyroux, a virtually identical example of this kind of dull-but-worthy genre).

From a British perspective, it reeks of a classic-drama-on-ITV-sunday-night TV movie piece, produced to tick boxes and meet tax and budget allowances for 1990. Perhaps that’s too cynical a view on my part regarding our noble recent tradition of mass market drama; Madame Bovary is a quality film, it just is little more than an adaption for the sake of one. It leaves as much of an impression as an advert for a Renault 25.

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