Hélène Daville (Stéphane Audran) is a confident, slightly naïve young teacher who is adored by her pupils at the school where she works and lives. She meets the local butcher, Paul Thomas, called “Popaul” (Jean Yanne), at a wedding ceremony, and they strike up a close but platonic relationship. The film examines how Hélène handles her suspicion of Popaul as a series of women in the small town fall victim to an unknown murderer.
Le Boucher (English: The Butcher) is a 1970 French thriller film written and directed by Claude Chabrol. The film had a total of 1,148,554 admissions in France.
Themes in the Film
Chabrol plays on conventionality, as it is represented in film. The distinctions between murderer and victim are at times blurred. The ideal small community that Chabrol establishes seems to mirror so many others and the characters he uses represent the eroding authenticity that is characteristic in films which seek to capture an “old world feel.” Popaul comes across as an innocent, laid-back, simple butcher, who mentions his experiences in Algeria and Indochina repeatedly.
Hélène is admired in the community for her selfless dedication to children — she forgoes a personal life for servitude. Chabrol hints that these characters are not as they seem. Repression and representation seem to be themes Chabrol works with in the film. In confronting repression and representation as Chabrol does, a character, who seems as altruistic as Hélène, takes on a new connotation. Little does Hélène realise that she is driving Popaul to these acts, leaving him stranded with his demons and self-disgust.
Even before he met Hélène, Popaul was tortured. Towards the end of the film, he delivers a soliloquy that allows the viewer to sympathize with him:
Le Boucher (1970)
Directed by: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Stéphane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferone, Mario Beccara, William Guérault, Roger Rudel
Screenplay by: Claude Chabrol
Production Design by: Guy Littaye
Cinematography by: Jean Rabier
Film Editing by: Jacques Gaillard
Music by: Pierre Jansen
Distributed by: Cinerama Releasing Corporation
Release Date: February 27, 1970