A Woman Kills (1968)

Restored by Radiance films, written and directed by Jean-Denis Bonan, and emerging over 40 years later, A Woman Kills is a stylish and gritty French new wave noir that taunts and disturbs in equal measure.

The city is at unease as prostitutes are being found murdered in a similar fashion to crimes already seen. But, serial killer Hélène Picard has already been caught and executed. Is it a copycat?

source: Radiance Films

It follows investigating officer Solange (Solange Pradel) who is having a relationship with the strange, executioner Louis Guilbeau (Claude Merlin). With his regaling of executions, mysterious Louis gives off a twisted vibe from the onset, but as the film unfolds, we see how far that goes.

A Woman Kills feels psychological, social and political. It encapsulates the era and the strife of the time. The film feels unencumbered by one defined genre, instead burgeoning into a unique hybrid that feels procedural and experimental simultaneously.

The Psyche of a Killer

With narration (Bernard Letrou) that feels calculated and indifferent, and camerawork that aims for claustrophobic and dizzying, one of the most memorable elements of A Woman Kills is its unyielding presence. Monochromic filming and genre blending make it a unique presence in cinematic history.

The unsettling songs written by Daniel Leloux add an intriguing layer to an already unnerving jazzy score. With a temperament that’s Avant Garde yet borders on imperceptible at times, the film carries itself boldly and confident which makes the feat admirable, especially for 1968.

source: Radiance Films

Any disconnected or disjointedness that it suffers from further invokes curiosity. The film’s format, which is odd to say the least, plays like a series of distorted snapshots that infuriates and unbalances the audience.

As a surreal portrait it still holds onto a tangible embodiment, simmering with the strife of the May 68 movement. The historical discord is felt in each step, while the music and narration orchestrate a discomforting journey. Visually and sonically, A Women Kills is masterful. It’s got wry commentary that marries words and images to alluring effect.

The work of cinematographer Gérard de Battista is playfully bleak, following the victims through the street like a documentary. It pairs well with the 68 minute runtime and never over stays its welcome. A Woman Kills chooses visual prowess over narrative substance, with the mystery weak in comparison to the presence of its visage.

While it draws comparisons to other French New Wave films of the time, as well as masters of psychological horrors like Hitchcock, A Woman Kills paves its own path.

I would have loved to have seen more of Solange Pradel, who was compelling but didn’t get enough screen time. Otherwise, the acting works, even if some of the plot points don’t always click as some of the choices, including the “reveal” haven’t aged well.

Despite any narrative concerns, a perceived lack of confidence in the script, and perhaps a product of the controversy and dismay of the time, I was hooked. A Woman Kills was tucked away for many decades and in ways, it has become crystallized.

There’s a beauty in the madness that makes this bizarre piece resonate. A Woman Kills is a bold undertaking, and it’s worth discovering.

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