Le Beau Serge (1958) Poster


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Really beautiful !
lionel.willoquet24 December 2001
Suffering from a bronchial infection, Jean-Claude Brialy, a young Parisian, seeks convalescence in his home village in the Creuse, where he hasn't set foot for 10 years. There he meets up with his former friend, Gerard Blain, who, despite a brilliant adolescence and a bright future, has ended up in a drunken stupor after his marriage. The first film by Claude Chabrol, who launched the New Wave with this bitter account of rural life, perfectly constructed, and served with the talent of Jean-Claude Brialy and Bernadette Laffont.
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Impressive Debut from a very talented director, even though it may not exactly be 'New Wave'
JasonGuzman9 July 2012
This film is considered to be the first film of the French New Wave film movement, preceding 400 Blows, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Breathless. I don't think you can put this film in the same category as those films. This film is a straight up conventional narrative about Francois who travels back to his hometown after 12 years, looking for a peaceful, restful place and recuperating from a lung infection, he finds that the people he once knew are all in dire straits. They are poor, provincial and cant seem to get out of their rut in this small town, the town Chabrol grew up in. Watching this film I didn't quite know in which way it was headed. The acting is superb and I really felt like I was in that small town with these people. Francois former friend turned alcoholic Serge turns in a convincing performance of drowning ambitions. This film was meticulously put together and the moving shots were intelligently fluid and effective. Unlike what other reviewers have said, this does not feel like a film from a first-timer. I have only seen Chabrol's last two films, Inspector Bellamy and A Girl Cut in Two and they were masterful in execution and i expected this one to be weaker but i was delightfully surprised. It holds up really well and I even think modern American audiences would enjoy this film about sacrifice and reformation.
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Almost There
Stroheim-37 October 1999
In what is considered the first film of the French New Wave, Claude Chabrol gives us a hypnotic vision of opposites in the same style as Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Le Beau Serge follows the story of Francois, a young man who returns to his home town after twelve years, who finds that the town is dying. His landlady even tells him that everyone will be gone soon enough. In particular, he finds that a once-promising childhood friend, Serge, is trapped as an alcoholic in a loveless marriage.

The brilliance of the film lies not in its storytelling (it is quite slow at parts) nor its acting (most of the actors were non-professionals) but in its structure. Everything is seen in doubles. Francois and Serge are two sides to the same coin. Each has an elder counterpart. Each has a female relation which seems to switch off at times. Serge has both a wife and a mistress who is at one point Francois girlfriend; at the same time, Serge's wife becomes morally attached to Francois. In addition, scenes are doubled; two scenes in the cemetary, two implied sexual scenes in Glomaud's home, two turns by Francois and Michel at the beginning, the list goes on and on. Furthermore, entire shots are doubled with different couples in each. It is brilliant.

In addition, the film looks as if it were unpolished (which is a basic tenet of the New Wave), but it looks as if it was a director's first attempt. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The greatest detraction (apart from the sometimes overacting) is the musical score. It is extremely discordant with regards to the movie. Minimal scenes such as Serge exiting his house are accompanies by percussion that sounds as if it were a harbinger of doom. I don't know if Chabrol wanted this, but it becomes irritating and causes the viewer to laugh at the film.

As an added note, watch for the parallels of Francois and Serge with the town's children. The kids pop up everywhere.
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Sensitive and socially insightful
tomgillespie200230 January 2016
Questionably considered the first entry in the Nouvelle Vague, or French New Wave, movement, Claude Chabrol's debut feature serves more as a precursor to the highly influential approach to film- making. While Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard broke new ground and had surprising international success with The 400 Blows (1959) and A Bout de Soufflé (1960) respectively, Le Beau Serge still retains a classical feel. Still, Chabrol's self-financing, on- location shooting, unorthodox editing and the use of non- professional actors proved to be highly influential to the Cahiers du Cinema crew and the first of its kind.

After more than a decade away from his home town, city boy Francois (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns to Sardent for the winter to rest and recover from a recent bout of life-threatening illness. Upon arrival, he notices that the place has barely changed but is oddly deserted, with only a handful of his old friends and acquaintances remaining. One who has remained is Serge (Gerard Blain), Francois' former best friend. The man once dubbed 'handsome Serge' has now been reduced to a bitter alcoholic, trapped in an unhappy marriage with Yvonne (Michele Meritz) who he blames for the loss of his child. Finding himself now at odds with small-town life, Francois still feels compelled to help his old friend.

Despite the odd flash of New Wave characteristics, Le Beau Serge shares more in common with the Neo-Realist movement in post-World War II Italy and the 'angry young man' films that would pepper Hollywood throughout the 50's. Chabrol, who grew up in Sardent, captures the crumbling town with both nostalgia and sadness. While obviously fond and whimsical of such a life, Francois' character feels oddly isolated in the town he once called home, unable to understand how accepting its inhabitants are of their inconsequential existence. The narrative drags in places, but this is both a funny and powerful film, especially if you hail from similar small-town beginnings. Chabrol would build his career on thrillers, but his debut shares a sensitive and socially insightful side rarely seen from the director.
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What a nice movie! "Quel Beau Film!"
FilmSocietyMtl12 January 2007
Born in 1930, this contemporary of Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer really was, like them, a vital part of the French "New Wave"...if only to have helped usher it in via a neo-realist approach. This is Claude Chabrol's first film and it launched him on a career that spanned 40 years and included mostly thrillers, often inspired by Alfred Hitchcock. Other of his notable works include LES COUSINS (1959), OPHELIA (1962), LE BOUCHER (1969) and MADAME BOVARY (1991) An "enfant terrible" and a genuine eccentric, he approached the making of this first film in a way that would later be identified with the "new wave" movement. He used mostly inexperienced actors, crude editing, lots of location filming and imbued it with a sense of spontaneity. Focusing on content over style allowed him to carve out a distinct piece work that is both compelling and a fine study of human nature. From opening shots of pensive lead actor J.C. Brially* riding a bumpy bus into his childhood town to the powerful closing shot of Gerard Blain shocked into sobering up, this film will have you looking at LE BEAU SERGE with adoration. *(Catch Brially starring in one of the finer French horrror films made; LE DEMON DANS L'ILE)
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HANDSOME SERGE (Claude Chabrol, 1958) ***
Bunuel19763 July 2010
The film that officially kick-started the "Nouvelle Vague" (interestingly, Chabrol was the only one in that talented crowd to have debuted with a full-length feature and self-financed to boot!) is, surprisingly, an "Angry Young Man"-type drama in a pastoral setting. The radical technique associated with this school of film-making is not really in evidence in this case, but nor is it needed – given that what we have here is essentially a character-driven piece.

In this respect, apart from the director himself (who also wrote the film on his own), the film brought in an array of fresh talent in front of the cameras as well – namely Gerard Blain (evoking Montgomery Clift in particular), Jean-Claude Brialy (restrained in comparison to his other work for Chabrol that I have watched) and the waif-like Bernadette Lafont (already effortlessly exuding carnality in her second film – and the first of 7 with this director – she was also married to her co-star Blain at the time).

Chabrol's realistic depiction of provincial France here, authentic both in the everyday detail of the locale and its characters' foibles (Blain is a hopeless drunk, Lafont is raped by her 'father', etc.), actually makes the much-later THE HORSE OF PRIDE (1980) not the odd-film-out it had at first appeared! One other atypical element is that of spirituality – especially when, towards the end, Brialy determines (albeit predictably) to reform Blain almost at the cost of his own life during one particularly blizzard-ridden night in which his friend is supposed to become a father!

By the way, Chabrol gives himself a cameo in the film: with him appears assistant director Philippe de Broca (whose character is named Jacques Rivette, after another "New Wave" exponent, obviously!); unfortunately, the subtitles – in a small white font – were especially hard to read during this scene.
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The Impressive Debut of Claude Chabrol
claudio_carvalho29 July 2012
In France, François Baillou (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns to his village to spend the winter as part of his treatment of tuberculosis. On the arrival, François sees his former best friend Serge (Gérard Blain) and greets him, but Serge is drunk and does not recognize him.

François learns that Serge is a frustrated man since he had not gone to the Architecture University and has stayed in the village working as truck driver since he had to marry his pregnant girlfriend Yvonne (Michèle Méritz). When the baby was born, he was mongoloid and died. Now Serge is the drunkard of the village.

François meets the seventeen year-old Marie (Bernadette Lafont), who is the slut of the village, and he feels attracted by the teenager. Meanwhile he tries to help his friend.

"Le Beau Serge" is the debut of the great French director Claude Chabrol that shows his talent to tell a simple and realistic drama. The performances are top-notch and the open conclusion is a trademark of Chabrol. It is weird to see a man treating tuberculosis smoking so many cigarettes along the story. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Nas Garras do Vício" ("In the Claw of the Addiction")
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thoughtful and involving
christopher-underwood18 February 2017
This is such a low key film, watched today, especially considering its importance in world cinema, being Claude Chabrol's first film and the film that is considered to have set off the Nouvelle Vague. It seems especially ordinary when compared to Godard's A Bout De Soufflé and Vivre Sa Vie, but then these were from 1960 and 1962, two and four years after this breakthrough film. Although this film is not city set and street wise, still harbouring melodrama and some theatricality it is not set bound, is made entirely within the village using the inhabitants within the drama and contains some bold camera-work, including long tracking shots and dynamic close-ups. It is also about the people we are introduced to, there is no historic event being reconstructed or alluded to, this is the here and now. Jean-Claude Braly plays Francois, the young man returning to the village after 12 years apparently a wiser man and Gerard Blain plays his old chum Serge who he feels could have done better for himself. Some great snow scenes at the end round off a thoughtful and involving piece.
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Neither Chabrolesque,nor nouvelle vague...
dbdumonteil15 December 2002
...This first effort ,made on a shoestring budget ,actually belongs to the old directors school and would not be out of place in ,say ,Duvivier's or Clouzot's brilliant filmographies.It even recalls Italian neorealism sometimes.Anyway,among all the directors of the otherwise a bit overrated new wave,Chabrol is the most accessible,the most palatable, particularly for those ,like me ,who do not give a damn about ,say,Rohmer or Godard.The depiction of the Bourgeoisie which will begin with the follow-up "les cousins"(with Brialy teaming with Blain again) and will become Chabrol's trademark is absent here .Laffont is the only pure new wave actress :Brialy used to work with the "old "guard as well,and Blain 's career really began with Julien Duvivier's unfairly overlooked and sensational "voici le temps des assassins"(1956).

The story is linear,with a lot of characters and a dash of melodrama thrown in -which is by no means new wavesque-.The rural milieu depiction will pave a reliable way for the highly superior "le boucher" (1969).There's also a tendency to dwell on the sordid side of life.Outside the good cast,two scenes in a graveyard are impressive.
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period piece..
al_serrano1 September 2011
Excellent film, does anyone else see similarities to Cat on a hot tin roof, and a number of southern Gothic references.....I read more than I probably should, sham loveless marriage , first child conceived by perve father, Francois and Serge maybe shared more than society would allow, Village priest, hmmm.Beautifully shot and so poetic, Chabrol's most sincere and honest.. just saying....Strong characters that have a grand noble purpose. Not at all apologetic and a testament to faith and hope in a futile, provincial and incestuous post war Europe. You feel their hunger and desperation. So revealing a film, yet it left so much unanswered. Post war French cinema is timeless and classic.
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The beginning of the French New Wave !!!
avik-basu18899 August 2016
'Le Beau Serge' by Claude Chabrol is considered by many to be the first French New Wave to have ever been released. The screenplay written by Chabrol himself focuses on a young man named François Baillou who comes back to his childhood village to spend the winter there. He is amazed by how much the village has changed in his absence. He also encounters his old friend Serge who is now a man living a mundane state of existence with his pregnant wife.

With a storyline which involves a character going back to his childhood village, one might expect a film that celebrates nostalgia like 'Cinema Paradiso', however 'Le Beau Serge' is anything but a film that wallows in nostalgia. This film brutally shows the discrepancies in the development and spread of modernity between the big cities and the villages in Post WWII France. The people in this particular village are living in a perennial state of hopelessness. They exist because they have to, they have no ambitions, no opportunities and no real goals. François with his urban sensibilities is horrified by the state of affairs here. The screenplay also gives us a bit of a mirror- like relationship between François and Serge. It is implied that their roles could have easily been reversed had things turned out slightly differently. Serge could have been the one who went to the cities while François could have been trapped in this village. This overwhelms François with a sense of guilt to see his childhood friend live in hopelessness. So he decides to bring in a change in attitude towards life in the village as a whole as well as help Serge in almost a Christ-like fashion.

The screenplay falters a bit when it comes to the depiction of female characters. The two major female characters, namely Marie and Yvonne are nothing but two female stereotypes on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Chabrol's direction doesn't really add any depths to these characters. Marie is nothing short of a plot device and her choices in the film make little sense. There is also a very disturbing incident that takes place in the film and the justification given for it made it even more shocking and not in the admirable way. Another flaw in the film is the unnecessary way in which the Christ-like nature of François' motives gets verbally referenced by other characters. It was clear and there need not have been the overt declaration of it.

Although this was the first New Wave film, but this was before the release of more monumental works like Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows' and Godard's 'Breathless'. So it doesn't have the unique storytelling and editing techniques that were ushered in by those films and feels a little more standard and conventional. As a matter of fact, 'Le Beau Serge' has a bit of an Italian Neo-realist feel to it due to the way the film depicts the sorry and stagnant nature of life in post-war France. The camera moves a lot in the shots and regularly pans rapidly to a particular portion of the shot to reveal something important. Chabrol also uses a lot of tracking shots in the film. Technically the film is well shot and put together.

'Le Beau Serge' was a solid first film for Chabrol, it is well directed, competently acted and the story has something to say. But I believe there are also some flaws in the film that I couldn't overlook. It still deserves to be recommended.
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Chabrol's First Feature Doesn't Automatically Mean French New Wave Landmark
jazzest24 June 2003
Released in a year ahead to the French New Wave landmarks

such as Hiroshima Mon Amour, The 400 Blows, and Breathless,

the first feature of another giant in the movement doesn't really

contain any innovativeness that the others show off. Rather, Le

Beau Serge expresses the modest respect to the directors of older

generations in France; especially there is an obvious similarity

between Le Beau Serge and Bresson's The Diary of Country

Priest. However, like the rest of French New Wave, the film's low

budget attitude loudly speaks the antithesis to the French

mainstream cinema, such as the works of Clement, at the point.

Relationships among main characters randomly oscillate

between friendship and hostility, don't develop, and go nowhere.

Consequently the story can't keep the audience's attention.
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The Truth About The New Wave
benoit-319 July 2010
France's so-called New Wave was a confluence of pretension and mediocrity. It was first and foremost a mid-fifties school of film criticism that postulated that (1) cinema was of great intellectual import, probably too good for the masses, and that (2) most successful French directors before the publication of its fanzine, "Les Cahiers du Cinéma" (Marcel Carné, Julien Duvivier, Marcel L'Herbier, Jean Gremillon, Henri-George Clouzot, Jean Delannoy, Henri Decoin, to name a few) should be despised, shunned, bullied, ridiculed and persecuted or at least treated with suspicion while most American directors of the same period (except for Wyler, Zinnemann and Stevens) were to be considered as "geniuses" and "pioneers". It was therefore based on a misunderstanding which made it more important to talk intelligently and pretentiously about films (thereby excluding most people from film appreciation) than to make films that people would actually want to see.

The movement had two cliquish firebrands, Jean-Luc Godard - who made increasingly unwatchable and solipsistic films all through his career - and François Truffaut - an acid-tongued journalist who attained a certain commercial success with the help of snobism, in spite of his idiotic and dogmatic principles and his obvious lack of talent and humanity. They will always be remembered as the two vindictive and parochial "mean girls" of French cinema and judged by posterity as "dwarves standing on the shoulders of the giants that preceded them" (e.g.: Jean Renoir, René Clair and Sacha Guitry). Their main legacy is the sad fact that very few of France's really important films (i.e. pre-New Wave) have been preserved and restored for posterity, unlike their own idiotic opuses. For good measure, Truffaut also despised the work of Jean Gabin, Michèle Morgan, Gerard Philippe and Michel Simon.

This misunderstanding also means that all the more successful, quietly innovative or truly revolutionary films of the period have been claimed as "New Wave" when they simply were not (e.g.: the best films of Chabrol, Malle, Varda, Demy, Resnais and Rohmer) and their directors have repeatedly said so, while the films of their "enemies" were excluded from any form of recognition (e.g.: Marcel Carné's "Les Tricheurs" and Julien Duvivier's "La Fête à Henriette").

"Le Beau Serge" is a case in point. It can only be considered "New Wave" in that it is made with no money by a young, dedicated but inexperienced director who tried to imitate his elders and betters and made many mistakes along the way. At that point, Malle didn't know how to sustain attention, direct actors or put a final product together (look at the editing and listen to the music, all dreadful).

This film is only watchable today because of Gérard Blain's heartfelt James Dean impression, Blain having been exploited by the New Wave for his charm and screen presence (and the fact he was married to Bernadette Lafond) and then vomited as soon as he started producing intelligent films that didn't carry the official New Wave label (e.g.: "Les Amis", 1970).

Everything I wrote here has been written countless times before but it can never be repeated often enough.

Chabrol himself once said: "There is no new wave, there is only the ocean."
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Do not judge this film by the company it keeps
Spleen13 July 2001
If this was indeed the first film of the New Wave then it has a lot to answer for. Unless there are other causal influences I don't know about, the New Wave destroyed French cinema. Old wave films like Carné's "The Children of Paradise" (1943), Clouzot's "The Wages of Fear" (1953), and Tati's "My Uncle" (1958) make Truffaut, Renais and Chabrol look earthbound and dreary. As, by and large, they are. (Even in the years after 1959 France's best films had little to do with, and owed little to, the New Wave.) But "Beautiful Serge" is at least a nice little film, only somewhat earthbound, and not so dreary at that.

An earlier reviewer has complained about the music; and, indeed, at the screening I attended there were some people up the back determined to chortle at what they perceived to be musical heavy-handedness. A cheap response would be that the film needed SOMETHING to lift it above the level of a 7-Up documentary. A fairer response would be that this is a story in which the theological significance of the hero's actions shines through a mundane surface, and the score serves to express that, too. It's the faint but real sense of fantasy that keeps "Beautiful Serge" very much alive.
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Beau is not good enough
klauskind15 March 2005
This is said to be the first film of the Nouvelle Vague. I don't see the Nouvelle Vague anywhere here. The distance between Le Beau Serge and The 400 Blows is not one year but an age. Chabrol's first film is like a melodramatic throwback to 19th century naturalism with a touch of redemption, that is, unnaturalized naturalism. Serge and his gang are enslaved by circumstances but his Parisian pal will work hard to bring them hope. It feels as if it had already been outdated at the time of opening and it doesn't look very chabrolian. Not that chabrolian always means "good".

I've seen at least as many bad movies by Chabrol as good ones. How could this happen to me? Once upon a time… people used to say he was a legendary master, someone to keep track of. Maybe he was. He has indeed made some masterful pictures in the 1960s-70s and some think he's also made 3 or 4 very interesting films in the last 20 years.

Anyway, that's no excuse for all the mediocrity he's churned out so complacently not only during the last 20 years but, as it turns out, since 1958 when he directed this shrill rural drama. There's even a mean priest and, of course, the saviour is a secularized priestly figure, he's devoted to his flock but has sex. As priests go, I'd rather have the uncanny Gerard Depardieu in that miracle Pialat borrowed from Bernanos: Sous le Soleil de Satan.
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French New Wave Begins
gavin694213 September 2016
Francois comes back to his home village in France after more than a decade. He notices that the village has not changed much, but the people have, especially his old friend Serge who has become a drunkard. Francois now tries to find out what happened to him and tries to help him.

It has been cited as the first product of the Nouvelle Vague, or French New Wave, film movement. The film is often compared with Chabrol's subsequent film "Les Cousins", which also features Jean-Claude Brialy and Gérard Blain. Perhaps I am mistaken, but "Cousins" is the film that is better known today and more highly praised. But, of course, it was also more expensive to make, so we couldn't have "Cousins" if "Serge" had not been a success.

The film initially ran to 2 hours and 35 minutes, though Chabrol cut a great deal of quasi-documentary material to reduce the running time, a decision he later regretted. Where exactly that footage is now, I have no idea, because the version released by Criterion is a modest 99 minutes. This would mean an extra 45 minutes may exist somewhere.
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New Wave, Old Sea
writers_reign21 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If this really WAS the one that started the new wavelet then it wouldn't be so bad and would never have done the French film industry as much harm as the semi-Amateur Godard would inflict on it. Most directors who are around for several decades display a certain amount of unevenness in their work but Chabrol has got it to a Fine Art. I'm glad I'm not alone - I've been reading some of the other comments here - in finding the music highly risible, so much so that I times I thought it was deliberate parody. More like a documentary that a feature it seldom rises above the ho-hum and Gerard Blain (Serge) must have wondered what he'd let himself in for after seeing at first hand how the Big Boys do it when he worked, two years earlier, with maestro Julien Duvivier on Voice les temps des assassin. See it as a curio but don't miss Neighbours to do so.
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Touching and nice direction, but unfulfilled
gbill-7487711 September 2017
Claude Chabrol's first film has some things going for it, starting with its cinematography, simple in that it's all shot in the French village of Sardent, and yet with at least a few of the glimpses into the techniques that would be called 'New Wave'. One really feels the smallness of the village that François (Jean-Claude Brialy) returns to after some years have passed, only to find his friend Serge (Gérard Blain) a drunkard with a horrible attitude. The scenes in the snow and at night towards the ending are simply beautiful.

There is a rebelliousness to the film, mainly in the form of Serge, who is frustrated that his dreams of becoming an architect have been dashed, that he was trapped into a marriage because of a pregnancy, and the baby turned out to be stillborn. François has returned to a crumbling village whose inhabitants lead dissolute lives and believes he can and should help them, but the trouble is, they don't want his help. The relationship between the two isn't particularly profound, but the film is touching in a few places. Adding some spice to it all is Serge's flirtatious sister-in-law (Bernadette Lafont).

I didn't care for the musical score, which was too jaunty and annoying in places. After an interesting setup, the plot fizzles a bit, and I think the ending was simplistic. This is a good film, one worth watching, but a better one is Chabrol's film the following year, Les Cousins, starring the same two actors.
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