THE STONE COLD CLASSIC:
Story of Women – Mubi.com
French master Claude Chabrol takes a cold-eyed look at the true story of Marie-Louise Girard, who was executed by guillotine in 1943 for carrying out abortions. Chabrol renames her Latour and has her played with brittle self-sufficiency by the legendary, if sometimes hard to like, actress, Isabelle Huppert, who gives her a skilful mix of pragmatism and gradual empathy for the women she helps.
Latour isn’t motivated by ideology but rather by the difficulties of circumstance. With two young children to support and a husband who is unable to work after his return from World War 2, she spots a niche market and proceeds to use this to her advantage – charging high prices for her services and using the profits to upgrade her sexual options and live a luridly lavish lifestyle that eventually catches up with her.
Chabrol is sometimes a little heavy on the metaphorical imagery, which abounds with prefiguration of Latour’s eventual demise and obvious commentary on the oppression of woman and the debilitating effects of the war on the French national character.
However, there are enough strong performances and moments here to make it, if not one of Chabrol’s best, a better than average thoughtful examination of the role of society in creating the circumstances that lead desperate women to look to illicit means to terminate unwanted pregnancies during an era long before the sexual revolution, feminism and Roe v Wade when abortion was taboo in many countries in the world.
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