The Flower of Evil, 2003

François (Benoit Magimel) has returned to France after living in Chicago for the past three years to find that, despite his father Gérard’s (Bernard Le Coq) intriguing intimations, little has changed in the petit bourgeois household of the Charpin-Vasseurs. His determined stepmother Anne (Nathalie Baye) has channeled her energy towards a mayoral candidacy, against the wishes of Gérard, whose own ambitions selfishly revolve around the growth of his small pharmaceutical business (and using the office for his constant parade of extramarital liaisons). His college-aged step-sister Michèle’s (Melanie Doutey) radicalism seems to be fueled only by the promise of an excused absence from school. Even dotty Aunt Line’s (Suzanne Flon) only pressing concern is to have food on the table on time. However, their complacent existence is perturbed when a scurrilous leaflet is disseminated throughout town, casting aspersions over Anne’s integrity by accusing the Charpin-Vasseurs’ of a buried, multi-generational legacy of incest, adultery, and Nazi cooperation. In contrast to the taut thrillers that have characterized Chabrol’s cinema, The Flower of Evil forgoes much of the filmmaker’s signature suspense to create a socially incisive – albeit underformed – and wicked, dark comedy on the inbredness, complicity, and perpetuation of familial sins: a theme that is visually illustrated in the repeated, bookend shots of the enigmatic Aunt Line in the living room.

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