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The Good Girls
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Claude Chabrol
1960 || 100 mins

Four attractive young women who work together in an appliance store in Paris spend their free time looking for love and fulfilment with little success. High-spirited Jane (Bernadette Lafont) is picked up by a couple of lechers who are only interested in one thing. Ginette (Stephane Audran) hopes to become a great singer but is forced to perform in a seedy music hall. Rita (Lucille Saint-Simon) is engaged to a man who appears more concerned with pleasing his parents than caring about her. Only the reserved Jacqueline (Clotilde Joano) seems to have found true romance. But is the mysterious figure on a motorcycle really the man of her dreams?

see also articles on:
Top 10 Chabrol Movies || Claude Chabrol Profile|| French New Wave History || French New Wave Film Guide

Although now considered a New Wave masterpiece, Claude Chabrol’s Les Bonnes Femmes, received a hostile reception when it was first released in 1960. Its frank and scathing view of relationships between men and women was not welcomed by either critics or public and the film subsequently sunk without trace. This negative reaction shook Chabrol’s confidence and over the following years he stuck to more mainstream material, leaving Godard and Truffaut to create the movement’s more innovative and adventurous work.

The film unfolds in a series of episodes rather than following a linear narrative. Henri Decae’s black and white cinematography brings a Rossellini-like realism to much of the action that gives us a marvellous insight into what life in Paris in 1960 must have been like. At times we could almost be watching a social documentary about these girl’s lives. But the tone never quite settles – humorous scenes are undercut by a sense of threat and unease. This unusual combination of elements is part of what makes the film so memorable.

Another reason for the film’s success is the performances from the four lead actresses. Bernadette Lafont, in particular, stands out as the lively party girl Jane. Chabrol really makes us care for these young women and their efforts to escape their monotonous existence. Despite their optimism though, we are left with an impression that they are destined to be disappointed. Romance is shown to be an illusion and a dangerous one at that. The final scene is as unsettling as anything in Hitchcock and lingers in the mind well after the film has ended.

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