Chaos review

:. Director: Coline Serreau
:. Starring: Vincent Lindon, Catherine Frot
:. Running Time: 1:49
:. Year: 2001
:. Country: France


In French director Coline Serreau's social drama Chaos, Hélène, a "petite bourgeoise", gets her life turned upside down when she witnesses the beating of Noémie, a prostitute. From that moment Hélène's life won't be the same, as the film becomes a plea for women's freedom denouncing physical and psychological abuse from men. Also taking the paths of a thriller, the film avoids falling into melodramatic manipulation by sustaining a constant humor.

While driving in the streets of Paris, Hélène (Catherine Frot) and her husband Paul (Vincent Lindon) are stopped by an injured prostitute (Rachida Brakni) running from a group of pimps. Paul, a man who doesn't want any troubles, locks the car and flees the scene as Noémie is badly beaten up. The following day, a remorseful Hélène goes to the hospital and slowly leaves her family to focus on helping Noémie to recover.

From there the film attacks a society where women are abused at different levels. First, at the physical level, the film depicts the creepy world of prostitution, where Eastern European networks control the seedy streets of Marseille and Paris. From the recruiting and taming of the girls to working the streets, the film shows a realistic and uncompromising vision of modern slavery (the film is entirely shot on DV to emphasize the realism). Second, at a psychological level, Chaos denounces some certain aspects of religion, here Islam, for making women the servants of men. It also shows the trade of some French-Algerian immigrant families selling their daughters back home. Finally, psychological abuse isn't absent in the Parisian bourgeoisie either. Hélène and her stepmother (Line Renaud) are passive objects in the lives of egoistic cowards Paul and his son. Both are identical, selfish males who enjoy using women for sex, food and ironing.

But as Hélène takes care of Noémie, she realizes that she is only missed for not organizing around the apartment, and she and her son's two girlfriends will finally end up turning the tables on them.

In addition to being a social drama, this is also a thriller, and that is its weakest element. The well-plotted vengeance of a prostitute who is also a financial wizard when it comes to the stock market is as unbelievable as the picture's categorization of nice women against evil men. You might also complain that there are too many parallels between Hélène and her stepmother, Paul and his son and Noémie and her sister. Had it been a serious melodrama, Chaos would have been a definitive failure. But because humor is omnipresent, constantly making fun of the characters and their flaws as well as the situations, the absence of seriousness and the several laughs provided make Chaos a fun and cruel comedy-drama worth the shots it dares to fire.

  Fred Thom

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