2 November 2021

Patrice Chereau's La Chair de l'orchidée | The Flesh of the Orchid (1975)

Now how do we talk about this in any sensible way? This is an adaptation of James Hadley Chase's crime novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) and the plot involves young Claire (Charlotte Rampling), whose billionaire father has made her his sole heir, being put in a pyschiatric hospital by her rapacious aunt Edwige Feuillère (Madame Bastier-Wegener). But Claire escapes, has a road acccident in which she's very slightly injured, and then meets horse rearer Louis Delage (Bruno Cremer) and Marucci (Hugues Quester). But Marucci gets murdered (after Claire has blinded him for his sexual advances) by the Berekian brothers, who are also after Louis.

If it all seems very confusing, that's not exactly because it's supposed to be, but because this is the highly esteemed Chereau's first film, and he merely intended it to be an kind of exercice de style, or a rough draft of a film. The plot collides with sub-plot, and gets lost in atmosphere. And the atmosphere is dark, as is the lighting, and the film is shot through with violence, the threat of violence, suspicion, fear, isolation, etc. As an experimental film, which it is in a sense, this is very successful and quite rivetting.

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