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Claude Chabrol's Aesthetics of Opacity

Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze

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The first critical appraisal of Chabrol's œuvre as a whole (from 1958 to 2009)

Claude Chabrol's cinema is generally associated with a specific type of psychological thriller, one set in the French provinces and fascinated with murder, incest, fragmented families, unstable spaces and inscrutable female characters. But Chabrol's films are both deceptively accessible and deeply reflexive, and in this innovative reappraisal of his filmography Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze explores the Chabrol who was influenced by Balzac, Magritte and Stanley Kubrick. Bringing to the fore Chabrol’s ‘aesthetic of opacity’, the book deconstructs the apparent clarity and comfort of his chosen genre, encouraging the viewer to reflect on the relationship between illusion and reality, and the status of the film image itself.

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List of illustrations



Chapter 1: Contexts and Influences

Chapter 2: Chabrol and Genres

Chapter 3: The Human Beast

Chapter 4: Family Secrets

Chapter 5: Chabrolean spaces as heterotopias of crisis

Chapter 6: Through the Looking Glass: Chabrol’s ‘crystal-image’

Conclusion: Towards an Aesthetics of Visual Opacity

About the Author

Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze is Reader in French at Durham University. She specializes in (19th-century) French literature and French film. She is also the author of a début novel, La logique de l’amanite (Grasset, 2015).


Seven years after his death, this is a timely appraisal of Chabrol’s work. Dousteyssier-Khoze shows how Chabrol is more indebted to Balzac than we may have thought. She deftly navigates his serial killers, and shows how Deleuze’s crystal-image and Foucault’s heterotopia can illuminate Chabrol’s manipulation of space and time.

- Professor Phil Powrie, University of Surrey

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