Director Claude Chabrol, one of the most successful members of the French New Wave, is still (after a hugely busy career) able to breathe life into suspense with subtlety, irony, and humour. Considering he returns time and again to the French bourgeoisie, the freshness of his films is all the more striking. Yet it is the middle classes, the gulf between what they say and what they actually think, and the importance of things left unsaid which stoke the drama of so many of his films.
And so it is with "The Colour of Lies", a gentle but powerful psychological thriller, which targets a failing French painter and his increasingly introspective wife, both of whom live in a Brittany fishing village. One of his art students - a young girl - is found raped and murdered, and he - immersed in nervousness and gloom - is placed under the microscope by the police and the gossipy, judgmental community, with even his own expressions suggesting he might well be guilty. His wife's demeanour, meanwhile, hints at a woman who, though clearly very loving, would quite like to withdraw from her marriage and enjoy an affair with the media celebrity next door, a glib, charming egotist played by Antoine de Caunes. It is this ambiguity in both husband and wife which keeps the other - and us - guessing.
In a film whose theme lies in all their assorted forms and shades, the three actors prove highly skilled in nuance, with Antoine de Caunes banishing all memories of his clownish alter ego in "Eurotrash". Chabrol, forever asking us to spot detail, ensures that every one counts. A work of superior acting and quiet strength.
In French with English subtitles.