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The Flower of Evil | Review

Repairing the Mistakes of the Past

Chabrol’s plays house, but once the door is open not much fun is had.

French filmmaker Claude Chabrol needs no introduction and neither does his body of work which makes wonderfully delicious comments about the bourgeoisie class. While his newest includes strands that are just as familiar as in his hit Merci pour le Chocolat, this film is a far less compelling affair.

Put simply, this is a more self-contained divertissement where the narrative push gyrates around a thrill-less murder mystery, and where the composition provokes a subtle reaction from the viewer. Rather than elaborately knitting a somewhat solid who dunnit type of scenario, this one evokes a sort of contemporary Gosford Park feel where the secrets aren’t found behind the walls of the countryside mansion but within the consciousness of some of the film’s characters.

Commencing with an opening shot sequence that displays a lifeless body; the weight of the picture is distributed by an exploration of the family’s core. Although The Flower of Evil doesn’t concern itself with murder weapons, it attempts to detail the possible murder motives by firstly addressing the clashes within a family of generational similarities which are affected by some of the seven sins and the slander of dirty politics and secondly by suggesting that incestual relationships, buried family secrets and a history of questionable homicides are perhaps the cause behind a flash-forward shot of a murdered family member.

Chabrol gives us a family of three generations where the tensions are brushed off by a deceptive politeness and the many cover-ups in emotions and secrets is lead by the matriarch of the family whose demons of the past catch up with her due to a scandalous outbreak. Unfortunately, the evilness of the sinister characters from the baby-boomer generation is diffused by the presence of Aunt Line, brilliantly portrayed by actress Suzanne Flon The Train who proves that writers should consider writing roles for golden aged female actresses. Her performance and her character balances particularly well with the younger portrayals from Melaney Doutey and Benoit Magimel (La Pianiste) but her story and the added reference back in time from World War II époque slightly sharpens the presence of her character but not too the overall story which is hardly a criminal yarn worth investing in.

Periodically, the low tempo of the picture gets its value from the spicy dialogue, but The Flower of Evil is as interesting as the results of a town’s future mayor…basically nobody cares who gets elected and nobody cares who gets murdered. While I did like how the Auntie hares a special relationship with the youngest of kin, it’s as if the game of scrabble foreshadows the concept of the film but not the worth the wait promised ending which we get a sample of in the beginning. What gets “concealed” is the opportunity for a better film.

Viewed in French with English subtitles.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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