The name Claude Chabrol may be familiar to international film fanatics, but he’s far from a stateside household name…something we’re working hard to remedy. In the 50s, he worked as a film critic at Cahiers du Cinéma alongside fellow French auteurs Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, all of whom ultimately changed the landscape of international cinema with their experimental and philosophical filmmaking. But from the jump, Chabrol stayed true to his own formalistic style. Believe it or not, he was the first of the Cahiers group to release his own feature: Le Beau Serge, in 1958, and he released Les Cousins, another classic, the following year—all before Truffaut premiered the Cannes hit The 400 Blows, the film that’s often cited as officially kicking off “La Nouvelle Vague.” This video essay highlights Chabrol’s knack for suspense, and his career-long preference for keeping audiences entertained with Hollywood-like plot structures with a transgressive narrative spin. The result? Accessible yet thought-provoking thrillers that are a far cry from the New Wave films that sometimes polarized viewers (both within and outside the movement itself).  

Watch Now: Two films by Claude Chabrol — The Bridesmaid and The Eye of Vichy.

For more videos about our favorite filmmakers of the French New Wave, don’t miss Color By Numbers: Jean-Luc Godard, The Sounds of Agnès Varda, and the first installment of this series, Riding the Wave: François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows”!