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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 54.0° F  Fair
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The Bridesmaid

You might think that by now the men of France and America had seen enough movies to know better than get involved with batty women, no matter how beautiful or compelling they might be. At best, these romances wind up as pitiful cases of l'amour fou; at worst, they culminate as tawdry items in the local police blotter. Claude Chabrol, the French auteur whose penchant for creating movies full of psychological tension often gets him compared to Alfred Hitchcock, knows a thing or two about femmes fatales - mostly, that men are eternal suckers for their come-hither gaze.

In The Bridesmaid, Benoît Magimel plays a constrained young man named Philippe who works as a salesman for a plumbing contractor and lives at home with his widowed mother and two younger sisters. At a wedding, he and the substitute bridesmaid Senta (Laura Smet) are instantly attracted. It's a quick descent into passionate love and undying commitment, even though it's obvious that Senta's background is a jumble of fabrications. Maybe her unbridled ardor serves as a lure to Philippe's natural reserve, or maybe it's simply a matter of great sex, but the guy's clearly lost his head over this girl.

Chabrol doles out information sparingly, as is his style. The final payoff is a good one, but this is middling Chabrol, not as suspenseful as his best work. Still, the tightly wound Magimel is a delight to watch, and Smet makes it easy to understand Philippe's beguilement. Chabrol's film stands as a reminder of the madness that lurks in plain sight, and apparently there can't be too many cautionary tales about the dangers of daffy dames.

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