Masques


1h 42m 1987
Masques

Brief Synopsis

A writer spends the weekend with a TV star and uncovers his deepest secrets.

Film Details

Also Known As
Masker, Masks
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Foreign
Release Date
1987
Location
France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Synopsis

A writer spends the weekend with a TV star and uncovers his deepest secrets.

Film Details

Also Known As
Masker, Masks
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Foreign
Release Date
1987
Location
France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m

Articles

Masques


One of the major players of the French New Wave and a pivotal example of the Cahier du Cinéma veterans behind it, director Claude Chabrol was at low ebb career-wise outside of his native country when he made this 1987 thriller laced with heavy doses of dark comedy. The status of his career had more to do with his relatively small amount of low-key output in the first half of the decade than the quality of his films. He had just turned out a now well-regarded pair of Jean Poiret vehicles with Poulet au vinaigre (1985) and Inspector Lavardin (1986), which were preceded by the quirky The Hatter's Ghost (1982) and the solid drama, The Horse of Pride (1980). However, the films received very little play outside of France and were unseen by most English-speaking audiences for many years, a fate that also befell Masques.

For the first and only time with this film Chabrol collaborated with leading man Philippe Noiret, a veteran actor know for such classics as The Judge and the Assassin (1976), Coup de torchon (1981), and Zazie dans le metro (1960). One year after making this film he would embody his most internationally famous role as the benevolent projectionist Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso (1988), a high point in a career that continued until his death in 2006. Here Noiret is well cast as Christian Legagneur, a personable TV game-show personality who serves as a weekend host for journalist Roland Wolf (Robin Renucci) for a series of in-depth interviews. Wolf's dismissal of any substantive discussion turns out to be just the first of many deceptions as the plot soon involves such elements as a young missing woman, Wolf's enigmatic goddaughter Catherine (Anne Brochet), and a pivotal loaded pistol.

Masques was co-written by Chabrol with Odile Barski (their third project together after Violette in 1978 and The Blood of Others in 1984), and interestingly enough, it would be his last original narrative for several years. His following feature, The Cry of the Owl, was a 1987 adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith thriller, with his subsequent projects tackling a wide range of authors including Henry Miller, Gustave Flaubert, Georges Simenon, Ruth Rendell and Francis Szpiner, not to mention an unproduced Henri-Georges Clouzot script from 1964. The screenplay here is the director's most explicit commentary on the dark side of celebrity, which requires those in the public eye to put on a mask on such a regular basis that the nature of one's true personality becomes blurred; as such it fits in well in the succession of films like The Unsuspected (1947), A Face in the Crowd (1957), and Network (1976) with its slippery depiction of spectacle and reality uneasily coexisting in front of the public.

Despite its pedigree, Masques was a very difficult film to see outside of France until its much belated video releases in the United States and the United Kingdom. It also has yet to receive much coverage in text studies of Chabrol, though Guy Austin's 1999 book, French Film Directors: Claude Chabrol, finds other threads linking it to his more famous thrillers that came before and after: "Chabrol's work is essentially a cinema of ambivalence. His films are funny in both senses: often unexpectedly comic, they are also strange, unsettling and disturbing. Their ambivalence is most evident in the fluctuating tone, the open endings, and the lack of moral judgment that these endings imply." He also notes that its isolated house setting fits in well with the other country estates that prove to be murderous playgrounds in his other films, as "these houses function as enclosed worlds... their Gothic appearance also creates a sense of foreboding." Seen today, the film is easier to appreciate as an early entry in the seriocomic thrillers that would become Chabrol's specialty for the remainder of his career, and the final moments in which the spectator's gaze is turned in on itself remain a highlight from his work in that decade.

By Nathaniel Thompson
Masques

Masques

One of the major players of the French New Wave and a pivotal example of the Cahier du Cinéma veterans behind it, director Claude Chabrol was at low ebb career-wise outside of his native country when he made this 1987 thriller laced with heavy doses of dark comedy. The status of his career had more to do with his relatively small amount of low-key output in the first half of the decade than the quality of his films. He had just turned out a now well-regarded pair of Jean Poiret vehicles with Poulet au vinaigre (1985) and Inspector Lavardin (1986), which were preceded by the quirky The Hatter's Ghost (1982) and the solid drama, The Horse of Pride (1980). However, the films received very little play outside of France and were unseen by most English-speaking audiences for many years, a fate that also befell Masques. For the first and only time with this film Chabrol collaborated with leading man Philippe Noiret, a veteran actor know for such classics as The Judge and the Assassin (1976), Coup de torchon (1981), and Zazie dans le metro (1960). One year after making this film he would embody his most internationally famous role as the benevolent projectionist Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso (1988), a high point in a career that continued until his death in 2006. Here Noiret is well cast as Christian Legagneur, a personable TV game-show personality who serves as a weekend host for journalist Roland Wolf (Robin Renucci) for a series of in-depth interviews. Wolf's dismissal of any substantive discussion turns out to be just the first of many deceptions as the plot soon involves such elements as a young missing woman, Wolf's enigmatic goddaughter Catherine (Anne Brochet), and a pivotal loaded pistol. Masques was co-written by Chabrol with Odile Barski (their third project together after Violette in 1978 and The Blood of Others in 1984), and interestingly enough, it would be his last original narrative for several years. His following feature, The Cry of the Owl, was a 1987 adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith thriller, with his subsequent projects tackling a wide range of authors including Henry Miller, Gustave Flaubert, Georges Simenon, Ruth Rendell and Francis Szpiner, not to mention an unproduced Henri-Georges Clouzot script from 1964. The screenplay here is the director's most explicit commentary on the dark side of celebrity, which requires those in the public eye to put on a mask on such a regular basis that the nature of one's true personality becomes blurred; as such it fits in well in the succession of films like The Unsuspected (1947), A Face in the Crowd (1957), and Network (1976) with its slippery depiction of spectacle and reality uneasily coexisting in front of the public. Despite its pedigree, Masques was a very difficult film to see outside of France until its much belated video releases in the United States and the United Kingdom. It also has yet to receive much coverage in text studies of Chabrol, though Guy Austin's 1999 book, French Film Directors: Claude Chabrol, finds other threads linking it to his more famous thrillers that came before and after: "Chabrol's work is essentially a cinema of ambivalence. His films are funny in both senses: often unexpectedly comic, they are also strange, unsettling and disturbing. Their ambivalence is most evident in the fluctuating tone, the open endings, and the lack of moral judgment that these endings imply." He also notes that its isolated house setting fits in well with the other country estates that prove to be murderous playgrounds in his other films, as "these houses function as enclosed worlds... their Gothic appearance also creates a sense of foreboding." Seen today, the film is easier to appreciate as an early entry in the seriocomic thrillers that would become Chabrol's specialty for the remainder of his career, and the final moments in which the spectator's gaze is turned in on itself remain a highlight from his work in that decade. By Nathaniel Thompson

Claude Chabrol's Masques on DVD


When popular television host, former singer and pop culture personality Christian Legagneur ("Bonjour pour tous!") is approached by up-and-coming journalist Roland Wolf (Robin Renucci) for a new biography, the two retreat to Legagneur's remote country estate. However, the jovial icon in a blood-red smoking jacket provides only superficial, evasive answers to the frustrated reporter's probing questions; furthermore, a gathering of other guests and residents including Legagneur's sickly goddaughter Catherine (Anne Brochet) - with whom Wolf strikes up a peculiar chemistry - provides further distractions. Legagneur asks Wolf to stay away from Catherine and to keep his door shut ("to keep out the mosquitos"), but both men prove to have far more on their minds than a mere puff piece; soon secrets begin to surface and the disarming mask of celebrity soon slips away before the public eye.

Turning his eye to the theme of celebrity and beginning with a splashy, neon-colored opening more typical of Claude Lelouch, director Claude Chabrol enjoyed something of a mid-career return to critical acceptance with this cheeky, darkly comic thriller. Often the center of the film's formal compositions, the marvelous Philippe Noiret sinks his teeth into one of his best roles this side of My New Partner. Though all the supporting performances are up to the usual high standards, it¿s really a one-man show as the mustachioed actor dominates each scene while adding layer upon layer (or is he removing layers instead?) as the enigmatic idol. As the younger writer with possible closeted skeletons of his own, clean-cut Renucci (who memorably played the has-been poet father in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers) juggles the obligations of romantic lead and clinical investigator with professional skill.

Meanwhile Chabrol throws in some atypically nudging references to Alfred Hitchcock: a lost woman named Madeleine (Vertigo), a tennis challenge (Strangers on a Train), a kleptomaniac young woman (Marnie), mordant one-liners (¿I¿ll kill my sister for a good pun¿), and even the familiar theme music from Alfred Hitchcock Presents appropriated for the antihero's own program. Fortunately Chabrol¿s indelible stamp is still present in every frame, particularly his use of the immaculate bourgeois house - all gold and cream-colored squares - as the primary visual framing device during the bulk of the film. His usual critique of middle class domestic life is here transformed into a disturbing study of one manipulative but charming man whose path in life eventually runs straight into a dead end, all of his own creation.

Though prescient in its depiction of sweet-faced celebrities concealing their uglier true personalities, Masques is one of Chabrol's more benign and sunny thrillers. The characters have a warm, eccentric rapport right down to the casual visitors in the house, and even the most dastardly actions are put in a somewhat sympathetic light during the memorable monologue that closes the film, an actor's showcase that¿s one of the director and star's best moments.

Unlike some of Chabrol's lesser films from the period, Masques inexplicably received little play outside of France and earned its reputation primarily through critical writing and occasional festival and satellite TV screenings. Fortunately an immaculate anamorphic transfer was prepared for release in France under Chabrol's Mk2 label and then carried over to the U.S. release from Home Vision. It's a solid, colorful transfer that faithfully replicates the gaudy, often saturated colors of Legagneur's Lawrence Welk-style TV program and the softer, more delicate hues of the country scenes. Both versions offer English subtitles, though the Home Vision disc corrects a few typos present in the French edition. However, Home Vision's disc sports no extras apart from liner notes covering Chabrol¿s career around the period; the Region 2 French DVD offers a more solid package albeit with little of value for non-French speaking viewers: selected scene commentary by Charol (no subtitles), a video introduction by Joel Magny, and several Chabrol trailers including this film, Poulet ou vinaigre, Madame Bovary, Rien ne va plus, L'enfer, and Betty.

For more information about Masques, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Masques, go to TCM Shopping.

by Nathaniel Thompson

Claude Chabrol's Masques on DVD

When popular television host, former singer and pop culture personality Christian Legagneur ("Bonjour pour tous!") is approached by up-and-coming journalist Roland Wolf (Robin Renucci) for a new biography, the two retreat to Legagneur's remote country estate. However, the jovial icon in a blood-red smoking jacket provides only superficial, evasive answers to the frustrated reporter's probing questions; furthermore, a gathering of other guests and residents including Legagneur's sickly goddaughter Catherine (Anne Brochet) - with whom Wolf strikes up a peculiar chemistry - provides further distractions. Legagneur asks Wolf to stay away from Catherine and to keep his door shut ("to keep out the mosquitos"), but both men prove to have far more on their minds than a mere puff piece; soon secrets begin to surface and the disarming mask of celebrity soon slips away before the public eye. Turning his eye to the theme of celebrity and beginning with a splashy, neon-colored opening more typical of Claude Lelouch, director Claude Chabrol enjoyed something of a mid-career return to critical acceptance with this cheeky, darkly comic thriller. Often the center of the film's formal compositions, the marvelous Philippe Noiret sinks his teeth into one of his best roles this side of My New Partner. Though all the supporting performances are up to the usual high standards, it¿s really a one-man show as the mustachioed actor dominates each scene while adding layer upon layer (or is he removing layers instead?) as the enigmatic idol. As the younger writer with possible closeted skeletons of his own, clean-cut Renucci (who memorably played the has-been poet father in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers) juggles the obligations of romantic lead and clinical investigator with professional skill. Meanwhile Chabrol throws in some atypically nudging references to Alfred Hitchcock: a lost woman named Madeleine (Vertigo), a tennis challenge (Strangers on a Train), a kleptomaniac young woman (Marnie), mordant one-liners (¿I¿ll kill my sister for a good pun¿), and even the familiar theme music from Alfred Hitchcock Presents appropriated for the antihero's own program. Fortunately Chabrol¿s indelible stamp is still present in every frame, particularly his use of the immaculate bourgeois house - all gold and cream-colored squares - as the primary visual framing device during the bulk of the film. His usual critique of middle class domestic life is here transformed into a disturbing study of one manipulative but charming man whose path in life eventually runs straight into a dead end, all of his own creation. Though prescient in its depiction of sweet-faced celebrities concealing their uglier true personalities, Masques is one of Chabrol's more benign and sunny thrillers. The characters have a warm, eccentric rapport right down to the casual visitors in the house, and even the most dastardly actions are put in a somewhat sympathetic light during the memorable monologue that closes the film, an actor's showcase that¿s one of the director and star's best moments. Unlike some of Chabrol's lesser films from the period, Masques inexplicably received little play outside of France and earned its reputation primarily through critical writing and occasional festival and satellite TV screenings. Fortunately an immaculate anamorphic transfer was prepared for release in France under Chabrol's Mk2 label and then carried over to the U.S. release from Home Vision. It's a solid, colorful transfer that faithfully replicates the gaudy, often saturated colors of Legagneur's Lawrence Welk-style TV program and the softer, more delicate hues of the country scenes. Both versions offer English subtitles, though the Home Vision disc corrects a few typos present in the French edition. However, Home Vision's disc sports no extras apart from liner notes covering Chabrol¿s career around the period; the Region 2 French DVD offers a more solid package albeit with little of value for non-French speaking viewers: selected scene commentary by Charol (no subtitles), a video introduction by Joel Magny, and several Chabrol trailers including this film, Poulet ou vinaigre, Madame Bovary, Rien ne va plus, L'enfer, and Betty. For more information about Masques, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Masques, go to TCM Shopping. by Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States August 1987

Released in United States February 1987

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1987

Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1987.

Shown at Molntreal World Film Festival August 1987.

Began shooting September 22, 1986.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1987

Released in United States February 1987 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival February 1987.)

Released in United States August 1987 (Shown at Molntreal World Film Festival August 1987.)