7. Le Boucher (The Butcher) (Claude Chabrol, 1970)
From dancing umbrellas to bouquets of beef, the French new wave truly had something (and usually something extraordinary) for everyone, and Le Boucher is the best possible proof of that. It is a dark thriller, in which a small-town schoolteacher, Hélène, meets a man, Popaul, at a wedding, and begins a relationship with him. Everything seems to be going well, until a number of young women in the local community are brutally murdered, and Hélène begins to suspect that Popaul, a war veteran who has inherited his father’s butcher’s shop, may be chopping up humans as well as animals.
Chabrol was known as “the French Hitchcock” and Le Boucher is the best example of his continuation of the suspense genre that Hitchcock had perfected. Like Hélène, the viewer is never quite sure of the butcher’s motivation, until the devastating ending of the film, where the apparent roles of the two main characters are reversed and Popaul himself becomes a victim while Hélène is revealed as being possibly complicit in his crimes.