February 2, 2023

A WOMAN KILLS and the 40 Year Wait

A WOMAN KILLS (Blu-ray Review)
1968 / 69 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless🙀

The hot poop about A Woman Kills is that it was produced in 1968 but sat unreleased for over four decades, which makes the backstory of this French obscurity as interesting as the film itself. Perhaps more so.

Context is probably important to fully appreciate this one, about the director and the era during which the film was made. An awareness of Jean-Denis Bonan’s penchant for stirring the pot - thematically and stylistically - certainly helps, since A Woman Kills is unconventional, to say the least. Fortunately, this new Blu-ray from Radiance Films includes supplements that provide a wealth of information about Bonan and the cultural climate at the time. You might even want to watch them first.

The basic premise suggests a thriller…a few years after a notorious female serial killer is executed for her crimes, a series of similar murders has Paris terrified all over again. The lead detective, Solange (Solange Pradel), briefly worries they executed an innocent woman. However, the man who actually performed the execution, Louis (Claude Merlin), assures her the recent killings are the work of a copycat. 

Louis is a creepy guy. Not only is he really into his work, Louise deceptively insinuates himself into Solenge’s life, eventually revealing details about his past that have really screwed him up. Still, the two end up in a relationship. But it doesn’t take a detective to figure out how Louis knows the killer is a copycat. Before anyone screams ‘spoiler,’ A Woman Kills makes no pretense of being a mystery. Almost from the get-go, the story practically screams “It’s this guy!”

Very Casual Friday.
Until the final act, it isn’t really a thriller, either. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Unfolding like a docudrama - with (intentionally?) stiff voiceover narration - most supporting characters come and go in brief scenes that almost seem randomly sequenced with little or no transition. Some of these sequences tend to be voyeuristic, even exploitative (such as lengthy, lingering shots of Solenge showering or lying nude in bed). Other scenes depicting murders are kind of unnerving, mostly because of the vĂ©ritĂ© style in which they’re shot. Punctuating the story is an unusual score and atonal songs with bizarre, twisted lyrics. The climax features a rooftop and street chase, which is the only time the narrative approaches anything we’d consider conventional, but it’s also the best part of the movie.

One can certainly notice the influences of French New Wavers like Goddard, though Bonan obviously doesn’t have the same resources at his disposal. The film has an interesting premise, and if one didn’t know better, we'd suspect it served as partial inspiration for Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill. However, A Woman Kills is another one of those movies that’s easier to admire than enjoy. Bonan’s visual and narrative style can be off-putting, which could also be said about his dialogue and aloof characters. Viewers in tune with his sensibilities will find a lot to love, especially with some contextual background. Others will think it plays almost like an interminable, pretentious student film. There ain’t likely to be much middle ground.



ON THE MARGIN: THE CURSED FILMS OF JEAN-DENIS BONAN - An excellent retrospective doc featuring director Bonan and some of the cast & crew he worked with. Provides nice context regarding the era where he made A Woman Kills and some of the other films leading up to it.

SHORT FILMS BY JEAN-DENIS BONAN - 6 shorts Bonan made before A Woman Kills, most of them equally weird and provocative. If nothing else, his output was consistent. Be advised that one of the, “Tristesses des anthropophages,” includes poop eating. Proceed at your own peril.


SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Includes some informative essays by various authors/historians.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new and vintage artwork.

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