Thursday, July 24, 2014

794. Une affaire de femmes/The Story of Women (1988)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Claude Chabrol
Written By: Claude Chabrol, Colo Tavernier, from novel by Francis Szpiner
Main Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Francois Cluzet, Nils Tavernier, Marie Trintignant, Lolita Chammah
Click here to view the trailer


Hey, don't hate on me for that subtitle - that's really the subject matter! Finally got sent this one from Netflix after months of it being on a "very long wait" and I have to say, the wait wasn't worth the return. Read on...

The Story of Women is set in France during World War II and revolves around a mother, Marie (Huppert) and her two young children. The three struggle to make ends meet, with the father locked away in a POW camp and Marie & kids living in a dilapidated apartment, that rumbles often from a passing train. The neighbors are helpful, especially a young female neighbor, Ginette, whose husband is also away at war. When Ginette becomes pregnant, Marie decides to help out by performing an amateur abortion on her kitchen floor. She takes some tubing, feeds it into some soapy water and then into Ginette. A few nights later, Ginette awakens with blood pouring down her thighs - the pregnancy successfully aborted. Meanwhile, Marie makes friends with a prostitute, Lulu (Trintignant), whom  she informs of her "special abilities" and offers to help her out if she ever "gets into trouble". Lulu, being a popular prostitute, tells all of her friends and before Marie knows it, she's the number one place in tow to get rid of unwanted pregnancies, now charging upwards of 1000 francs for her services. In addition to that "talent", Marie also begins to rent out the spare room of her apartment to prostitutes looking for a place to get cozy with their Johns. Oh yeah and Marie's husband finally makes it back from that POW camp, returning home to a wife that wants next to nothing to do with him. She gives him the cold shoulder daily and when he begins to question where she's getting her money, she refuses to give him a straight answer. That should pretty much bring you up to snuff...


Okay, so I've got the Hell's Kitchen finale tonight, plus Big Brother so we've got to make this a bit snappier than normal. Hopefully my review doesn't suffer as a result...

I was actually really looking forward to this one, a combination of Isabelle Huppert (whom I liked In Loulou), Claude Chabrol (whose work I admired in Le Boucher) and just the fact that I generally dig modern French films (by modern, I mean 70s and beyond - not so modern anymore). Therefore, this one was kind of coming in with a seal of approval and ultimately, I have to say I was pretty disappointed by this one. I mean, not much happens right? So we're introduced to Huppert's character and we get the information that she does abortions, rents out rooms to prostitutes and loathes her husband and then we stew on that information for the bulk of the picture, until her husband turns her in, she's jailed and put to death. The end. I mean, yeah some other things happens, but as far as I could tell the characters were pretty hollow and as was the story. I never got a sense that there was anything deeper going on, that there was more digging to be done by the audience. The film just existed for about two hours and then it was over, end of story. I usually get a great sense of layering when it comes to French films, movies that demand to be studied and explored, watched over and over again. With this one, I didn't at all.

Even Huppert, whom by all accounts got nothing but praise for her role here, didn't blow me away or anything. I took to her in Loulou, but here she was just doing a job, no more, no less. The rest of the cast was just about ho hum. I'm not even gonna' touch on the whole abortion thing, because as long time readers of mine may know, I'd rather keep issues like that out of the blog to avoid any harsh feelings. To be honest, I'm not staunch on the issue either way, so the subject matter didn't sway my opinion one way or the other. The film was just okay - in fact, the very definition of an average movie. Not great, not terrible by any means either. A must see? Not at all, but not one to particularly avoid either. I'm sure some will love it, others may hate it - I fall directly in the middle.

RATING: 6/10  Barely a '6' and in fact, a '5.5' may be more appropriate, but in a way that also seems a tad too low so we'll go '6'. Anyway...hopefully that wasn't too rushed.


July 24, 2014  6:34pm


  1. I'm not sure if I could say it was a 'good' film.. or even that i enjoyed it.. But I did find it powerful, emotional and well worth watching...
    But i usually rate Huppert, and likewise never been dissapointed by a Chabrol...
    (Spell check so loves foreign films.. it wants to change that to 'Rupert' and 'Charbroil'!)

    1. See, I wasn't as moved by it. The power and emotion were lost on me and I felt for the subject matter, it could've been more emotional than it was....that's just me though...


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