Les Bonnes Femmes (1960) Poster

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jotix10015 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
We first encounter the women in the story late one night as they step out from a night club. Jane and Jacqueline are going home on foot. Two men jump into a white Cadillac and keep following them as one of them, Marcel, wants the two women to go to another night spot. We also see a somewhat mysterious man who gets on his motorcycle and tails the car and the women. This shadowy figure will remain a mystery until the last minutes of the film, yet, he will be connected with the women in ways that are not immediately known to the viewer.

Jane, is a bold woman who seems not to be a stranger to sexual pleasures. Jacqueline, on the other hand has a romantic nature. After spending some time with Albert and Marcel in the cabaret, Jacqueline is bored and goes home. Jane, who goes with the men to their apartment, returns home in time to change to go to work. Ginette and Rita are the other friends, and co-workers, in a small appliance store. Louise, the cashier, is more or less in charge of the girls and she identifies herself with Jacqueline, who in spite of having come in late for her first day at the shop, seems to be a kindred soul.

Ginette, who shares a flat with Jane, is a woman living a double life. She works in the shop, but is a singer who works in a theater that has variety acts. She doesn't want to let the other girls know what she does. Rita, the fourth friend, is engaged to a fatuous man who appears to be embarrassed to be introducing her to his parents.

These four women appear to be living boring lives. Their only escape is the night life all around them. Jacqueline, who is approached by a delivery man at the shop for a date, refuses him. At the same time, that night, at a swimming pool she is saved from Marcel and Albert's horseplay with her in the water by the motorcyclist. This meeting leads to an unexpected turn of events for Jacqueline, who doesn't have a clue as to what is going to happen to her. A hint to Jacqueline's fate is comes later in the film, as she asks Louise about a "fetish" she carries with her.

This film was not seen widely in this country after it was released. In fact, it remains an enigma why it was not discovered by film fans, the way it deserved. Claude Chabrol, the director, who also contributed to the screen play, gives the story a great staging. It's one of his works that most closely resembled a product of the New Wave movement as it took the cameras into the streets to show a slice of the lives of these four women that are so closely connected.

There is a lot to admire in the way Mr. Chabrol designed this film. He got great support by the amazing cinematography of Henri Decae, one of the best in the French cinema. Even after more than forty years after this film made its debut, it has much to be admired in what Chabrol was able to accomplish with it. The character studies of these women living ordinary lives reveals the director knew them well.

Clothilde Joano makes an impression as Jacqueline. Bernadette Lafont does wonders with her Jane. Stephane Audran, who went to star in a lot of films of her then husband, is quite effective as Ginette. Lucile Saint-Simon, is Rita, who had a short role. Ave Nimchi, has some good moments as Louise, the cashier. Jean-Louis Maury and Albert Dinan are seen as Marcel and Albert. Mario David plays Albert Lapierre, the motorcyclist.

This film is a "must see" for all Claude Chabrol's fans
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slow, but engaging
snucker10 December 2003
i liked this film. it has an ambigious quality about it, almost paradoxical. it has a feel of a documentary and is observational in nature, yet there is a obvious message or view taken by chabrol and the women in this film. they're doomed objects of desire for men. the women have this elusive quality about them, they're beautiful and somewhat misguided about the men in thier lives. they seem unattainable, yet vulnerable to a ominous unspoken danger that awaits them that is denoted by the music. there's this creepy yet mysterious sounding music that runs through the film when the female characters roam through the streets. and for some reason, all the men in this movie are misogynist jerks! they disrespect these women and believe they're entitled to them. yet, these women flirt with them and passively resist them for most of the film. chabrol lovingly shoots these women and has affection for them, but also sadness at their romantic naivety about the men in their lives that will bring them doom.
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a girl I Vitelloni with even more observation and a curious (if obvious) Hitchcock angle
Quinoa198427 February 2010
Claude Chabrol made a film before Les bonnes femmes, Les Cousins, which is what made him known as part of the French New Wave (he preceded Truffaut and Godard by a year). But viewing Les bonnes femmes before seeing Les Cousins, I almost feel like this is a director's first film, for a director like Chabrol, as it shows a lot of his concerns as a filmmaker: an observational stance with women, their sexuality and their distance from the opposite sex, the mundane in a bourgeois life, and the Hitchcock angle of danger and the unknown. It's also in line with the other Nouvelle Vague films in the sense that the filmmaker has broken out of any ties to a studio or sets, and everything is out in the streets or on location in places like nightclubs and music halls and swimming pools, and usually with hand-held cameras and (seeming) improvisation with the actors. This is a gritty, on-the-streets Chabrol one isn't used to from seeing films like This Man Must Die and The Butcher.

And yet I don't know if I can say it's as great as the big early films of the period like The 400 Blows and Breathless. Chabrol's film does carry, I'm sure, some personal weight. And he's interested in these girls, their casual life and goings-on, and how so easily one of them can be lured by a mysterious man in a mustache who follows them around in a motorcycle. But it's such a loosely structured film- barely a plot, even less, if you can imagine, than Breathless- that it takes a moment for us to realize something is going on. Which perhaps is part of Chabrol's angle here: like Fellini's film I Vitelloni, we're just watching these four girls in their everyday occurrences, going to a zoo, going to a nightclub and hooking up with two (obnoxious) strangers, going to a music gall where one of the girls is secretly singing and doesn't want to go on for fear of embarrassment of the others seeing her, and just walking around. Or, as well, the complacency of working at a TV store where no one comes in.

We are drawn in to these girls and who they are, however limited they're really shown as full characters (more-so Chabrol is interested, I think, in these girls as 'types' possibly, or in looking at them in a semi-documentary perspective). And metaphor is used from time to time; I'm sure the visit to the zoo, and Chabrol's carefully timed and composed reaction shots of the animals in the cages, is deliberate as to the girls' own self-prison of 20-something frivolity. And there's also the matter, again, of the motorcycle guy, who somehow charms this girl. Actually not somehow, as in this sort of Nouvelle Vague film-world it's precisely the kind of guy a girl would fall for, even one seemingly so uptight as the one he goes after. Seeing how this plays out between them can go one of two ways, and how Chabrol shows it in the last fifteen minutes is totally masterful. There's a sense of the inevitable, but he keeps us uncertain as an audience, which is good. I'm glad I couldn't quite see where the ending would go, though when it came it made sense and was satisfying (it even raised up the worth of the film overall a full notch).

But a masterpiece? Probably not. It's like a breezy fling through a Parisian quarter, on the dark streets and cool nights with beautiful girls and not-so-beautiful but flirty men, and it has some wonderful moments. It just doesn't add up completely into something that makes you want to shake your friend up and say "You MUST watch this!" like 400 Blows, or even The Butcher.
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Chabrol's first masterpiece; maybe even his masterpiece.
the red duchess12 February 2001
Chabrol's career is often seen as moving from the naturalism of his early films to the extreme stylisation of his great mid-period. It's not as simple as that, but in 'Les Bonnes Femmes', Chabrol achieves a balance between the two that he has rarely equalled. The story of four shopgirls, their work and social lives, has all the plotless and poignant banality of realism, while the closing third, with its move from Paris to the country, its seducer-cum-motorbike-riding-devil (reg. no.: 666) talking about the Creator, as little schoolboys called Balthasar pass by; and its closing vision of Hell/Purgatory bespeak a more Cocteau-like world of mythology and religion. But there is Cocteau too in the framing of Jacqueline in the shop window, while Chabrol's filming of treacherous nature later on is uncommonly vivid. Although 'Bonnes' is his least typical film, it is also his most lovable, and seems to get richer with the years.
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Fascinating and Creepy
nikmaack24 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"This is where we're going," the film says, over and over again. It whispers it. "We're going over here."

I laugh. The film is joking. It must be. Yes, yes, I understand. Very funny.

The film is not joking. It's taking us exactly where it promises to take us. And when we get there, it's not so much surprising that we've arrived there, as that I refused to believe the film. And yet, here we are, as promised.

*** And here's where I spoil the movie for people who haven't seen it. ***

Did anyone else get the impression that the women in this film aren't naive at all? They're not oblivious to the dangers of men. Quite the opposite -- they're drawn to it. The reason the murder at the end is so shocking is that it's not shocking in the slightest. From the very beginning, you know Jacqueline is going to die. You know Albert is going to kill her. The movie tells you this, over and over again. An assortment of scenes point at this fact.

The music tells you. Various scenes discussing danger then we cut to Mr Motorcycle and his maniacal face. The scene with the lion. Throughout the entire picture, we know.

And what's stranger still -- Jacqueline knows she's going to die. At least, that's the impression I am left with. Louise, the older woman with the bloody handkerchief, soaked with the blood of a man who killed many women. When she was a girl, she found that killer attractive. She rushed forward to the guillotine, soaked her hanky in the killer's gore, and keeps it as a "fetish", in her purse, forever.

Only Louise and Jacqueline are portrayed as romantics. They're serious. They're smarter than the other women. They know more about desire. But the film implies all women are like this -- just some of them recognize it.

The scene that is most disturbing is the woman dancing at the end, staring straight into the camera. Her expression says, "I know exactly what I'm doing. I know exactly what men are. I am no victim. I would gladly die for love."

At least that's what I saw in this film -- an uncomfortable, creepy, disturbing concept that true love only happens when one person totally consumes (or kills) another.
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One of a kind
youwinjack28 June 2005
A friend of mine - a film scholar - once said that this film shouldn't work but it does. He was absolutely right. I cannot think of one good reason why this film should be as good as it is. The tone is observational, like many films of the "New Wave," but it lacks the frenetic energy of Godard, or the jaded lyricism of Truffaut. The tone of the film changes drastically at several points, and in any other film this would become a big turn off. But a strand of sincere honesty about the characters and their emotions holds the film together, stronger than any formality.

Let the film take you where it wants you to go, and the experience is wonderful.
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A weekend in the lives of four Parisian shop girls
ieaun3 March 2000
The film shows a weekend in the lives of four Parisian shop girls, from their Friday night out in the nightclubs of Paris through to a Sunday outing into the countryside. All four dream of escaping their humdrum existence: Ginette (Stephane Audran) is trying to start an alternative career as a music hall singer, Rita (Lucile Saint-Simon) is engaged to a shop owner, Jane (Bernadette Lafont) is wined and dined by two married businessmen, and Jacqueline (Clothilde Joano) falls in love with a biker who is stalking her. The monotony of the girls' lives is shown as they spend Saturday in the shop just waiting for the moment when they can go home. At the same time Chabrol shows a fascinating portrait of the city at work and at play. The storyline holds the viewer's interest, the acting is excellent (especially Lafont, and despite some terrible overacting from the girl's boss), and the director hints at some of the gruesome shocks of his later films.
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Chabrol's masterstroke
Aw-komon25 March 2000
The 'overacting of the boss' mentioned in the previous comment is totally intentional! Chabrol is playing around with genres here, exaggerating for effect. He straddles the fence between comedy and tragedy for the entire film, veering this way and that whenever it serves his purpose: to paint an allegory of absurd modern existence through the soul of modern young females. The surreal modern music at the beginning clues you in, and the awesome final scene with the empty, tragic eyes of the girl finding her only happiness when a man asks her to dance brings it all together beautifully. Man! what a great film! I didn't want to leave the theater after watching it twice in a row, but I was too tired. As disappointing as Chabrol's films have been to me over the years, this one was a jackhammer of a surprise. The Hitchcock elements are there but they don't dominate and straitjacket everything else. On a level with "Breathless," "Shoot the Piano Player," yet completely unlike either of them, this film defines the "New Wave" aesthetic, which to this day, some forty years later provides a standard for Tarantino types to strive for. Films like these can only be directed by masters who have the nerve and audacity to bend genres to their whim and speak their ultimate truth through the nature of the medium itself.
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Female clerks
dbdumonteil9 August 2006
Chabrol,although labeled "Nouvelle Vague" has never forgotten to tell a story.It has made him the heir of a long tradition of the psychological French thriller (Clouzot,Duvivier,Decoin).Even his earlier efforts ("Le Beau Serge" "A Double Tour" "Les Cousins" ) had painstaking well-constructed screenplays .But "Les Bonnes Femmes " gives way beneath the weaknesses of the Nouvelle Vague and succumbs to their vices:a vague story,ponderous jokes,mediocre performances (mainly the male ones)and a lot of padding.At a pinch,one can save Clotilde Joano's character and the terrible fate which lays in store for her.But the main reason why you would watch this non-Chabrolesque film is Stephane Audran's presence: she would be his star when he peaked in the 1968-1973 years.The films he made then were his very own and had nothing to do with the N.V. fortunately.
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Well made but not particularly enjoyable.
MartinHafer12 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers

There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about this Claude Chabrol film. Some see it as a masterpiece and some really dislike it. I was less than enthusiastic about it--mostly because the script seemed to have a lot of problems, though the direction was very good.

The film is about four female co-workers and is a small snippet of their lives and loves. The problem with it is that some of the characters seemed very shallow and difficult to like or connect to for the audience. One seemed rather trampy and dumb, one was engaged to a man who was a real spineless weasel, one had aspirations to become a professional singer but hid this from the others and one seemed like a nice lady who dreamed of a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet. Frankly, there was too much--too many ladies and none of them were well explored or executed. The film probably would have done better concentrating on one or two.

Another problem with these plots is that when this Prince does arrive near the end for the one lady, he eventually turns out to be a serial killer and the film ends with her brutal murder. What's entertaining about all of this?! And, considering that her character (like the others) was never fully developed, her murder seems less sad and more of a plot device.

As for the rest of the film, the direction is lovely--with some excellent closeups, excellent composition, etc.. Overall, however, I have seen many of Chabrol's films and have found that they are a mixed bag--sometimes they work very well (THIS MAN MUST DIE and L'ENFER) and sometimes the story lacks connection with the characters and they are too often just pawns who are just there to eventually be killed in the film. In fact, this is a sort of trademark in his films--such that after a while you expect a random and senseless death and so it's only a surprise when it DOESN'T happen.

Overall, while this film is interesting, it's also not particularly noteworthy or enjoyable.
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A slice of lost Parisian life
rowmorg13 October 2006
Just to prove that portraying males as all-negative is nothing new, see Les Bonnes Femmes: the employer with wandering hands, the drippy suitor, his bossy Dad, the snobbish fiancé, the lurking psycho, the bad-jokes bully-boy and his fatty hanger-on, the absent lad on national service. Every one of them is no good. And yet the four shop-assistants are no better, they exist only for the men. Whatever the fellows throw at them, they're up for it. It's a chilling worldview, with a cynical twist at the end, (plus a tacked-on coda that seems to be from another movie). Along the way, there's some really hammy acting from the girls' employer that clashes badly with the realistic mood, and some longueurs as the girls get bored at work and we get bored right along with them. The young Bernadette Lafont is a joy, but she fades out in Reel Three when the lovely Clotilde Joano comes to the fore. Whatever happened to Clotilde? Her subsequent career was undistinguished, and she died at age 42. This is mostly a watchable slice of Paris life from the late 50s, although the Algerians who caused so much mayhem only a few years later are nowhere to be seen.
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Fascinating movie
collanter1 December 2004
I watched this movie by a coincidence zapping around, and I couldn't stop watching. The movie was made 4 years before I was born, but I like to see old films of this kind. And of course, the French movies of any year, always casting beautiful actresses. The story is simple, and moves very slowly forward. But maybe this is a realistic portrait of young parisiennes in 1960. It's sure gives me some feeling of the nightlife in Paris then. Clotilde Joano is "Jacqueline", who faces a tragic ending in this movie. I have tried to find out some more about this classic and beautiful actor, but the internet contains very little information beside her biography, and that she was Swiss, and died in 1974. If anyone can give me some more information about her, I would appreciate it. If you are going to see an black and white European movie this weekend, I can recommend Les Bonnes Femmes.
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beautiful french new wave dream
zoeyneo19 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I own this DVD and have seen it many times. Fitting for its genre, it is intense, dark, sensual, and poetic. It's like riding in a car that you know is going dangerously fast but you're enjoying it too much to ask the driver to slow down. Although the storyline is quite simple, indeed not much happens to the girls before the ending climax, their fervor and hunger for life is palpable. It is the mood more than the events in the film that make its strong impact. Jane is mesmerizing, charming and complex, at different times a little girl, a rebellious teenager, or a flirtatious temptress. On the opposite side, Jaqueline is an utter mystery, implying a nature both extremely intelligent and extremely troubled. The men in the film are basically facades, people there to react to the girls, or to lead them into situations where they must react, or ***spoiler coming*** claim them as their victim. But even in the case of the murder, it is less about the killer and more about Jaqueline allowing herself to be taken by him emotionally, and what came to her as a result. Les Bonnes Femmes is a story open to much interpretation, rich with clues and artistic integrity.
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Disturbing French classic *slight, slight spoiler*
barbarella7011 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Superb, unnerving film about four young Parisian women and their desires for and experiences with the opposite sex.

'60's New Wave director Claude Chabrol (Les Cousins, Le Boucher) was one of the best and crafted his films with deliberate care -he takes everyday events, adds something sinister and builds on that dreadful feeling- understanding that character developement and pacing are most crucial for a thriller and it makes Les Bonnes Femmes a haunting experience.

There's evidence of his influence in directors like DePalma and even in John Carpenter's Halloween but he's the master and only ranks a notch higher than Hitchcock because he doesn't button-push so overtly.

A great film that also features the dazzling beauty of the young Stephane Audran and packs a punch missing in most other suspense tales.
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Creepy Hitchcockian Ending
eibon0431 January 2002
Masterful early Chabrol film with brilliant acting and tense situtations. A preview of situtations and things to come in later Chabrol thrillers. The man on the bike is an enimatic figure whose intentions are not revealed until the final moment. The final scene is done in the manner of a dream. I think that Les Bonnes Femmes(1960) had a slight influence on Ms. 45(1981) especially on the working relationship of woman. Seeing it makes me interested in watching more films by Claude Chabrol. Classic French cinema of the New Wave besides Shoot the Piano Player(1961) and Breathless(1959).
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Pointless early Chabrol film
gridoon201922 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The strongest asset of "Les Bonnes Femmes" are the Femmes themselves: four talented French actresses, each with her own distinctive acting style, two were familiar to me (Audran and Lafont - few actresses epitomize better the spirit of that era in French cinema), the other two unfamiliar (Joano and Saint-Simon). Claude Chabrol adopts a free-form / slice-of-life narrative style here, and sometimes it comes across as beautiful spontaneity (the sequence at the zoo); more often, however, it comes across as pure shapelessness (the pool scene goes on for an excruciatingly long time). And the ugly, cynical (not to mention dumbfounding) ending puts the final nail in the coffin. ** out of 4.
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One of the earliest New Wave films
Red-1256 March 2011
Les bonnes femmes (1960), directed by Claude Chabrol, was shown in the U.S. with the title The Good Time Girls. The film depicts the lives of four Parisian shopgirls. (I guess now we would call them retail clerks, but in 1960 they were shopgirls.)

The women are all looking for romance, and they do no one any harm, but their lives are not filled with the glamor and excitement that the term "good time girls" evokes. They go to music halls, public swimming pools, and the zoo. They let men cruising by in cars pick them up. They stay out all night and stumble half asleep into work the next day. One of them is pursued and courted by a mysterious motorcyclist.

All four young women are attractive. Three of them went on to have important careers in the French cinema--Bernadette Lafont , Clotilde Joano, and Stéphane Audran. (Audran later married director Chabrol,)

Although Chabrol is a superb director, and the actors are talented, the film just didn't work for me. The young women had vacant lives, they had no aspirations or dreams of something different, and they had a naiveté that was sad rather than charming.

This is a movie worth seeing if you have a particular interest in the French New Wave, in Claude Chabrol, or in the young actors who were not yet major stars. I wouldn't seek it out as casual viewing. We saw it on VHS, and it worked well on the small screen.
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time travel
filmalamosa11 May 2012
The other reviewers cover this film perfectly--particularly the one by DuMonteil. So will just add things that occurred to me.

This film follows the lives of 4 Parisian shop-girls: one wants love one wants money etc...

One problem with this film is there are too many shop-girls to follow. And a couple of them look just alike. The story line skits around and all this confuses you.

It also tries to be funny and isn't--goofy zany and bizarre yes done pretty well but this isn't hard to do. The scene in the restaurant with the motorcycle rider hitting his head on the table went on far too long. Also it took me quite some time to convince myself of what happened at the end.

I also like watching these to see the street scenes and cars from the era of my childhood.

Recommend ?--probably not unless you are like me and like looking at the Deux Chevauxs and Panhards etc...
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Disturbing *slight spoiler for Goodbar & Femmes*
barbarella7010 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Unnerving French film by superb director Claude Chabrol deceivingly begins as a good time tale about four fun lasses then turns into a nightmare filmed with a darkly poetic style that haunts.

A lost '60's New Wave classic, the film obviously had a strong impact on future filmmakers since you can spot components in works by DePalma and John Carpenter -especially in his Halloween. Les Bonnes Femmes also makes the kind of impact that the clunky Looking for Mr. Goodbar doesn't: the 1977 tale about singles bars featured an in-your-face woman who pursued non-stop sex with disastrous results while Les Bonnes Femmes shows naive characters who are merely looking for emotional love only to be tragically disappointed. There's a world of difference between a pop culture message film and an observational foreign character study.
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Good Times/ Not
jakob1327 July 2015
'Les bonnes femmes', more than a half century on, is a curious piece of 'nouvelle vague' cinema. Black and white, it lends a sadness to a grey Paris, at a time when France discovers adolescence and and yearnings of the young working class. Claude Chabrol tells the tale of four shop girls looking for love in the wrong places. And yet,Jacqueline, understatedly played by the delicious Clotilde Joano, oddly finds it, despite disappoint, as the camera fades out on the light in her eyes as she dances with an unknown man in a nightclub. The young Stephane Audran and Bernadette LaFont and Lucille Saint Simon are in the cast. Pierre Bertin doesn't quite steal a scene as the lecherous Monsieur Balin. And we see a Paris that is no more; a Paris prey to plastic bombs and terrorist attacks in a France entering its ninth year of war in Algeria.
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