A happy ceremony for La Cérémonie (1995) at Laemmle Anniversary Classics


ed. note: To mark the 30th anniversary of French auteur Claude Chabrol’s dark masterpiece, La Cérémonie (1994), Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classic Series present a special screening of the film followed by a with a conversation between host Stephen Farber and actress Jacqueline Bisset, in person, at the Laemmle Royal Theatre in Santa Monica. Farber has shared these words about the movie in advance. Take it away, Steve!

Claude Chabrol was one of the masters of the French New Wave, along with Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Eric Rohmer. His acclaimed films of the 1950s, Le Beau Serge and The Cousins, established Chabrol’s reputation as an astute observer of contemporary French society. He continued to demonstrate satirical gifts in his later films but added an interest in suspense and crime stories with such films as La Femme Infidele, This Man Must Die, Le Boucher, and Violette, starring Isabelle Huppert. His partnership with Huppert continued over several films, including a new adaptation of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Story of Women, a bold study of a woman executed for performing illegal abortions during World War II.

Chabrol re-teamed with Huppert, who joined rising actress Sandrine Bonnaire and veterans Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel, for  La Cérémonie, adapted from the novel by acclaimed mystery writer Ruth Rendell. Bonnaire plays a maid who is hired to work for a wealthy family living in an isolated mansion in Brittany. Eventually she strikes up a friendship with a savvy postal worker living in the nearby town, played by Huppert. The two young women devise a plan to take advantage of Bonnaire’s employers, played by Bisset and Cassel.

Huppert won the Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscar, for her performance, and Bisset earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The Guardian named  La Cérémonie as one of the 25 greatest crime films of all time. Craig Williams of the British Film Institute called it “perhaps Chabrol’s greatest achievement.” Both the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics named it the Best Foreign Language Film of 1995.

Among many critical accolades, Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle called the movie “a tight, beautifully contained thriller that plunges four wonderful actors into dangerous territory.” The Los Angeles Times added that the film was “elegant, briskly lethal in its assault on the obliviousness of the bourgeoisie.” Desson Howe of the Washington Post wrote, “La Cérémonie builds toward a stunning, jarring conclusion that puts everything you have seen in a chilly new perspective.”

Jacqueline Bisset has been one of the greatest supporters of our Anniversary Classics Series. She joined us to discuss one of her very first movies, Two for the Road, as well as Murder on the Orient Express and Francois Truffaut’s Oscar-winning valentine to moviemaking, Day for Night. Bisset boasts a wide-ranging career that includes early box office hits like Bullitt with Steve McQueen, The Detective with Frank Sinatra, and The Deep with Nick Nolte. Her many other credits include Airport, Philippe de Broca’s Le Magnifique, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?, Rich and Famous, John Huston’s Under the Volcano, and Christopher Munch’s The Sleepy Time Gal. She recently starred in festival favorite Loren & Rose.

Stephen Farber, former president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a frequent contributor to The Hollywood Reporter and Los Angeles Times. He is the author of five books on Hollywood history. He is host of Reel Talk, presented with Landmark Theatres, and Anniversary Classics, presented with Laemmle.

photo credit: dreamsarewhatlecinemaisfor blogsite

La Cérémonie, 30th anniversary screening, Jacqueline Bisset in person | Laemmle Anniversary Classics, Laemmle Royal Theatre | Tuesday April 2

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