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What I am watching this weekend: The Torment (L’enfer) by Claude Chabrol on Kanopy

    There is more to a library card nowadays. You can download books, audiobooks, music, stream, and graphic novels without setting foot in a library. My favorite freebie from my local library is Kanopy. The avantgarde streaming service is a welcome addition for unusual classic movies that you will not find with other streaming services. You stream thousands of films for free, thanks to the generous support of your public library or university. I am allocated 5 movies a month. This weekend I am watching The Torment by director Claude Chabrol from 1996. The French title is L’enfer. I do not know why they do not translate it as Hell. The movie stars Emmanuelle Béart, François Cluzet, and Nathalie Cardone.

    Paul has just bought a charming waterfront hotel in the heart of France. In debt for the next ten years, he sets to work with his beautiful new wife, Nelly (Emmanuelle Beart). The life of the young couple is a dream come true. Paul, however, becomes increasingly irritated and high-strung. He starts taking sleeping pills and is aware of a voice in his head expressing doubts. As the tension rises, Paul becomes more and more suspicious and violent.

    Claude Chabrol is often regarded as France’s answer to Hitchcock, that title is really better suited to Henri-Georges Clouzot, as Chabrol’s contributions to the thriller and suspense genres are more moody and mannered than the association would suggest — the filmmaker’s textured and observed works have much more on their mind than scares and thrills. Not a man with the most hopeful view of humanity, most of Chabrol’s works boil down to mordant morality plays and often acerbic studies of hypocritical class and social mores. Also key to understanding Chabrol is his gallows humor, frequently sly and often ridiculing. “Stupidity is infinitely more fascinating than intelligence,” he once famously quipped.