Friday 22 July 2011


(Lucas Belvaux, 2009)

The cinema of Claude Chabrol is often described as Hitchcock-esque, and some of it undeniably - and self-consciously - is. But Chabrol quickly established his own directorial identity, and over a career stretching across four decades he honed and perfected it just as much as Hitchcock had done his. All the same, the first time I ever thought to describe a film as "Chabrol-esque" was during a viewing of Lucas Belvaux's superb thriller Rapt. It shares that French masters economy and classical, perfectly neutral, yet also magisterial style. It also shares an emotional coolness which is stripped away for instances of raw, shocking emotion and a nastiness of sensibility which Chabrol would envy.
It is the tale of a kidnap; a wealthy industrialist is abducted and ransomed by a well-organised gang of criminals. Belvaux shows us his ordeal, while also detailing the machinations at his company in his absence, his family reeling at tabloid revelations about his private life, and the police struggling to catch those responsible. This is all beautifully juggled with an effective mix of restrained emotion and pulp storytelling, and the performances are strong by all involved.
It is extremely gripping, particularly the sequence - reminiscent of a similar passage in Dirty Harry - where a policeman is led on a dance across Paris by the kidnappers at the other end of a phone, switching cars, jumping onto a high speed train, all in an effort to hand over the ransom. There is some nice, subtle commentary on the relationship between the press, police, government and industry in the debates over how to handle the ransom, and the ending is brilliantly bleak, with lives andvcareers ruined despite an outwardly happy resolution. This jaundiced view of the world and of people is spectacularly Chabrol-esque, and it gives Belvux's film great power and impact.

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