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Film / Le Boucher

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Le Boucher (The Butcher) is a 1970 French thriller film directed by Claude Chabrol, starring Stéphane Audran and Jean Yanne.

Mademoiselle Hélène (Audran) is the principal of a school in a small village. Her life is turned upside down by the arrival of Popaul (Yanne), an ex-soldier who is taking over the village butcher's shop. She meets him during a wedding ceremony. Soon they become friends. At the same time, several young women are found dead around the village.

Le Boucher provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Hélène is moved by Popaul's death, who is a serial killer. She even accepts to kiss him when he is dying.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Mademoiselle Hélène is charmed by Popaul, who is a serial killer.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Just after realizing that Popaul is the serial killer, Mademoiselle Hélène ends up alone with him in the school. He takes out his knife and kills himself.
  • The Butcher: Popaul is called "the Butcher", because he is literally a butcher. He is also a serial killer.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The lighter. Hélène gives it to Popaul as a present. It becomes important when she finds it next to the corpse of the teacher's wife, because it is a clue that Popaul might be the serial killer.
  • Class Trip: Hélène visits a cave with prehistoric paintings with the schoolchildren. During the picnic, she finds a corpse.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Hélène finds a lighter identical to the one she gave to Popaul next to the corpse of the teacher's wife. She does not turn it to the police. She hides it in a drawer instead.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Popaul and Hélène become friends. Popaul is actually in love with her. He reveals his feelings to her, but she is not interested. Popaul keeps on seeing her as a friend. He offers her food and he even repaints her apartment.
  • Driven to Suicide: Popaul kills himself when he realizes that Mademoiselle Hélène knows that he is the serial killer and that he disgusts her.
  • Driven to Villainy: Popaul describes his killing sprees as something that he cannot control. He is ashamed of it. This is probably linked to his shell-shocked veteran background. Hélène feels sorry for him.
  • Final Speech: Popaul speaks a lot about blood when he is dying in Hélène's car on the way to the hospital.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals: It rains a lot during the funeral of the teacher's wife.
  • Last Kiss: Hélène kisses Popaul when he is dying at the hospital.
  • Last Request: When he is dying at the hospital, Popaul asks Hélène to kiss him. She accepts.
  • Love Hurts: Years ago, Hélène was dumped by her lover. She was in a lot of pain because of that. Now, she develops a relationship with Popaul. She tries not to fall in love with him, because she does not want to go through this experience again. She ultimately fails and she is in pain again because Popaul kills himself.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The suspense-filled climax begins when Hélène, who knows that her friend Popaul knows that she knows he's a serial killer, is left alone at the schoolhouse, knowing that he is going to come for her. He doesn't actually show up for a few minutes, though, and all the suspense in the scene comes from wondering when he's going to show up, with both Hélène and the audience jumping at every shadow. It's almost a relief once he finally does come, a real testament to Chabrol's skill as a director.
  • Rain of Blood: A girl on a picnic is about to eat a white bread roll when red drops splash on her bread. It turns out that it’s blood dripping from a body that’s hidden in the hill above. The scene has inspired Mary Harron in designing the opening credits for her 2000 movie American Psycho.
  • Schoolmarm: Hélène runs and lives above the village school in a remote but scenic corner of France. She is loved and respected by pupils and parents alike. Then the wife of her assistant teacher is brutally murdered, forcing her to run the school alone...
  • Serial Killer: A serial killer kills several young women from the village. He does not rape them.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Popaul is a veteran of French colonial wars. He says how horrible war is. This is probably why he becomes a serial killer.
  • Shoutout: Hélène dictates an extract of A Woman of Thirty by Honoré de Balzac to her pupils.
  • Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: Hélène has given love up, because her first lover dumped her years ago.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Popaul, the serial killer, gets a sympathetic point of view. He was Driven to Villainy by his shell-shocked veteran background. Possibly by Parental Abuse too - he joined the army to escape his violent father.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Popaul and Hélène are obviously attracted to each other, but when Popaul tells Hélène he would like a Relationship Upgrade, Hélène rejects his proposition, because she thinks Love Hurts.
  • Villainous Crush: Popaul, the serial killer, is in love with Mademoiselle Hélène.