The melodramatic overspill from La Rupture (French title) looks faintly absurd 37 years later. Also, there is something distinctly nasty about a plot that relies upon the sexual abuse of a mentally defective girl.

The film opens with a half naked, long haired, goofy looking, tall bloke staggering out of a bedroom and trying to strangle a beautiful, well dressed woman before hurling their two-year-old son across the room. The woman fights free and bashes him unconscious with a frying pan.

Things calm down after that, but don’t make any more sense. The loony is Charles (Jean-Claude Drouot), son of Monsieur Regnier (Michel Bouquet), a reactionary property developer, who’s dislike of Helen (Stephane Audran), his daughter-in-law, borders on the obsessive.

She is an ex-stripper, turned barmaid, who is such a good person you wonder what on earth made her marry Charles. You might suspect she did it for the cash, except they live in relative poverty, and now all she wants is enough to carry her over the days, or weeks, her son is in hospital before the divorce goes through.

Regnier asks Paul Thomas (Jean-Pierre Cassel) to create a scandal which will damage her moral credentials to an extent that will force the divorce magistrate to give Charles custody of the child and since Charles, now a bedridden mental cripple, has moved back with his parents, it would mean handing the boy over to his grandfather.

Helen is staying in a boarding house close to the hospital, full of eccentric ladies and an out of work actor and run by the efficient Madame Pinelli (Annie Cordy), who has an alcoholic husband and mentally ill teenage daughter. Thomas also takes a room in the boarding house and begins his diabolical seduction of Helen, while constructing a devious plan to destroy her reputation.

The film is a talkie. Nothing much happens until the last quarter, if you discount the scenes in Thomas’s apartment, with his nymphomaniac girlfriend (Marguerite Cassan), who likes to bounce about naked on the bed. Writer/director Claude Chabrol photographs his wife (Audran) with the softest focus and she looks, as always, ravishing. However, Helen’s character is difficult to fathom. Is she, as someone suggests, a Joan of Arc figure, tougher and more astute than she makes out?

Cassel epitomizes the charm school cad gone bad. His scheme depends upon circumstantial timing and all the pawns behaving like wood, which, in real life, they never do. He is, therefore, exactly what you suspected when first introduced, a loser without portfolio.

Reviewed on: 11 Oct 2007
Share this with others on...
The Break Up packshot
The father of a drug addict plots the destruction of his daughter-in-law’s character. Out to own as part of .
Amazon link

Director: Claude Chabrol

Writer: Claude Chabrol, based on The Balloon Man by Charlotte Armstrong

Starring: Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michel Bouquet, Annie Cordy, Jean-Claude Drouot, Mario Beccara, Serge Bento, Jean Carmet, Marguerite Cassan, Louise Chevalier, Suzy Falk

Year: 1970

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Italy, Belgium


Search database: