A lucid, clear style, fine narration and expert playing make this tale of a psychopathic killer in a small French town one of ex-New Wave filmmaker Claude Chabrol’s most accomplished films. But it builds suspense slowly and, perhaps, gets a bit repetitious in its denouement.
The town butcher, played with direct bonhommie and brusque humanity by Jean Yanne, is enamored of the town schoolteacher, etched with warm flair and tender dedication by Chabrol’s wife, Stephane Audran. She once had an unhappy love affair and is afraid of any commitments.
Behind an extremely fine feel for the town and its everyday life comes a cloud, as policemen are seen coming in and out. It seems a little girl was found murdered in the woods and then another and finally a woman, wife of another schoolteacher.
The killer is shown as a fairly sympathetic character except for his sickness. Color is rightly bright and technical qualities fine right down the line.