The Cry of the Owl

1987, NR, 102 min. Directed by Claude Chabrol. Starring Christopher Malavoy, Mathilda May, Jacques Penot, Jean-Pierre Kalfon.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 3, 1992

Maybe it's me, but this alleged homage to the work of Alfred Hitchcock by Claude Chabrol acts as a textbook case of what's wrong with modern French cinema. Although Chabrol and co-writer Odile Barski have wisely taken as their source material a novel by Patricia Highsmith (who also wrote the novel upon which Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train was based), the movie itself never seems to work up the steam needed to engage the audience; it just sits there, looking dreary and all too nouvelle Francaise to elicit much of anything other than stifled yawns and the occasional raised eyebrow. Malavoy is Robert Forestier, a divorcé who gets his kicks by spying on his neighbor Juliette Voland (Mathilda May, perhaps best known in America as the soul-sucking space bimbo in Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce). When the two finally meet, they become friends, and Juliette eventually falls in love with the voyeur, much to the dismay of her husband-to-be, Patrick (Penot). When the jealous Patrick vanishes one night and Robert shows up for a dinner date with blood on his face, the police begin to suspect Juliette's new love of murder most foul. Robert's vicious ex-wife, Veronique, is also in the mix here, conniving to destroy his new life, but the film eventually becomes bogged down in its own exposition. Why she is so interested in humiliating her “ex” is never explained to anyone's satisfaction, and that only muddies the waters more. Chabrol has created a terribly static film, and although it's brimming with excellent photography and brilliantly lit, menacing mood pieces, the whole thing comes off as some sort of exercise in mediocrity. It's as though Chabrol became disenchanted with his work and said “screw it” halfway through the picture. You will too, I suspect.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Claude Chabrol Films
A Girl Cut in Two
French master Claude Chabrol's latest film is the tale of the downfall of a cheery, open-faced weathergirl in Lyons who falls in love with two different men.

Kimberley Jones, Dec. 12, 2008

The Bridesmaid
Claude Chabrol's latest film is based on a Ruth Rendell novel and, though not one of his best films, is still a good reminder of the madness that sometimes lurks in plain sight.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Dec. 15, 2006

More by Marc Savlov
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Welcome back, Mister Wick: Everyone's favorite merciless killer gets more human and more intriguing

May 17, 2019

Carmine Street Guitars
Spend time with the quiet artisans who make the instruments that rock & roll is built upon

May 10, 2019


The Cry of the Owl, Claude Chabrol, Christopher Malavoy, Mathilda May, Jacques Penot, Jean-Pierre Kalfon

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle