Tuesday, February 07, 2023

A Woman Kills, Music by Bernard Vitet

This film could have been an inspiration to the New French Extremity and other fringe Francophone filmmakers, but it was discarded prior to its completion due to filmmaker Jean-Denis Bonan’s prior difficulties with French film censors. How cult could it have been? Consider this: erotic vampire auteur Jean Rollin has a small role as a cop. For real film lovers, it is fascinating to finally watch it, but it arrives at a precarious time, given its provocative subject matter. Ready or not, Bonan’s A Woman Kills releases today, in all its raw glory, as a limited edition BluRay.

Helene Picard has been executed for the murder of a young street woman, but rather embarrassingly a fresh body has turned up, killed in an identical fashion. Picard seemed like a logical suspect, because she had a long history of anti-social behavior—awkwardly including lesbianism. Yet, it certainly seems it wasn’t her.

The cops are baffled, but the minister of justice still assigns his assistant, Solange Lebas, to investigate Louis Guilbeau, a ministerial bureaucrat exhibiting alarming signs of paranoia. At first, she suspects he is mad as a hatter, but somehow Guilbeau still manages to seduce her. Perhaps, they share an affinity as children of Algerian Colonialists (which was highly significant for a film made in 1968).

A Woman Kills
is vintage anarchist cinema through and through, especially the instrumental soundtrack composed by French Free Jazz pioneer Bernard Vitet. If nothing else, the way Vitet’s roiling discordant score mirrors the characters’ disturbed state of mind perfectly illustrates how horror movie makers have been missing the boat on Free Jazz.

Arguably, Bonan’s film is even more subversive now than when it was shot. It should be quite a site to see critics twist themselves into pretzels addressing aspects of
A Woman Kills, for many of the same reasons they are so uncomfortable discussing De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, particularly because of the way both films present transvestism.

A Woman Kills is more of an interesting viewing experience rather than an emotionally absorbing one—but it is definitely a fascinating film. Had it been in circulation, it might have been considered as the missing link between the nouvelle vague and Man Bites Dog. However, the various elements were never even assembled into a final cut until the early 2010s.

A Woman Kills should be considered a lost classic of transgressive cinema. It is a good test of tell how edgy and rebellious cineastes truly are. It doesn’t care if it offends, but there is a nocturnal noir vibe that is distinctly French. Highly recommended for the bold and the curious, A Woman Kills releases today (2/7) on BluRay.