Got to hand it to Chabrol, he knew how to keep politics and art separate when he wanted to. 1968, and what does he make, a jewel-like exercise in psychological storytelling.
Les Biches means, the does, or fawns, and also the girls, or chicks, with connotations of bad girls. One is a street artist who draws fawns on the sidewalk, and is picked up by Stéphane Audran, a rich, bored, bi-sexual ice queen. The other girl is a bit of cipher, and she becomes absorbed by, and obsessed with the identity of her keeper. There’s a bit of Hitchcock’s Vertigo here – one woman being transformed into another, albeit from very different motives. There’s not much suspense – the end is clearly foreshadowed early on – and the male character in this dysfunctional ménage is rather ambiguous: what will he do at the end when he arrives to find that the double has killed his lover…accept her as a replacement?
The cool, precise aesthetic that is the draw of this film struck me forcibly during this brief sequence showing Frédéric rising from her bed, dressed in immaculate white pyjamas, in her rather spartan bedroom. Look at how she gets up – she doesn’t bend her back at all! Her posture is ramrod straight. It looks as if she is sliding off the bed quite naturally, but every element of her movement is controlled and thought out, like a model, an actress, a creation.
This blogger gives an extended treatment in the same vein to the climactic murder scene, focusing on the precise camera work and editing of Chabrol.