|Bernadette Lafont and Stephane Audran|
Four Parisian shop girls work as clerks, try to have fun when they aren't working, and hope to find love or some fulfillment of their dreams. Rita (Lucile Saint-Simon) is engaged to the condescending Henri (Sacha Briquet), who thinks she isn't cultured enough for his parents. Jane (Bernadette Lafont) has a soldier boyfriend but dallies with a married man named Marcel (Jean-Louis Maury), who is a bit of a jackass. Ginette (Stephane Audran of Les Biches) secretly sings -- rather badly -- in a revue and is terrified that anyone should find out about it. And Jacqueline (Clotilde Joano) is obsessed with a man on a motorcycle, Andre (Mario David), who follows her all over Paris. The owner of the shop, Mr. Belin (Pierre Bertin), is a creepy old lech who breathes all over the gals while doling out supposed advice. Les Bonnes Femmes, a prime example of what was called the French New Wave, is almost anti-romantic in the downbeat but fascinating way it puts sentimentality on its head. The cashier in the shop, Madame Louise (Ave Ninchi), has a "fetish" that she shows to Jacqueline and which turns out to be a grotesque memento that foreshadows the very grim ending of the movie. Chabrol keeps the picture, which might seem uneventful and undramatic by Hollywood standards, moving, makes good use of Parisian locations, and fills the film with interesting details and performances. The young ladies are all quite attractive, while the men they get involved with are generally quite average looking, but this is not necessarily unrealistic. Henri Dacae's cinematography is topnotch, and the unusual and effective score is by Pierre Jansen and Paul Misraki. Chabrol married Stephane Audran four years after this film was released.
Verdict: Chabrol's masterpiece. ***1/2.