Claude Chabrol’s forth feature film The Good Time Girls, was released in 1960, the same year as Godard’s landmark film Breathless, and, just one year after Truffaut’s career-launching The 400 Blows. Chabrol’s film can often feel inferior to these other French new wave masterpieces at first glance. But, while looking deeper into the film, a cool, unsympathetic style starts to emerge. One that could, on its own, sum up a huge amount of influence the French new wave brought to world cinema.
The film is packed full of interesting camera movements, much like the work of Hitchcock or even more contemporary directors such as Tarantino, the camera is ever flowing, and always interested in its on-screen subjects. One early scene during a heavily alcohol influenced party introduces a wide array of messy hand camera movements. At times, we become engulfed in dancing crowds of people as they knock into the camera and obstruct its lens. Because of this, The Good Time Girls feels somewhat different from the other new wave films being made at the time. It remains more contained and understanding towards its characters.
The film is closer to what the French new wave would later become. Films such as Day for Night or Le Boucher, feel aesthetically related in plot and theme. However, The Good Time Girls still manages to keep the style and fluidity of earlier, more youthful new wave efforts.
The film follows four young women as they try desperately to add deeper connection to their lives’ by means of love and passion. They work together in the same store, but their time is mostly spent standing around the shop doing nothing, feeling trapped, as though the short time they have been given on earth is ultimately being wasted. The girls each try to break away from this individually, using love as their means of escape, succeeding at times and failing at others.
The plot can become confusing or seemingly pointless. Many scenes follow the girls as they spend nights out, sometimes spending time with awfully sexist and immature men. This is, in fact, how they hope to connect with the “perfect love” that will save them from a mundane existence, allowing them to escape everyday life.
One of the girls, Rita, seems to have already found her love, in the form of a selfish gentleman who seems more concentrated on using her to impress his parents, rather than who she is as a person. The others are also subjected to selfish, and outlandish men, who seem to only be interested in using them.
The films most interesting character by far is Jacqueline, a lonely young woman, and the most disconnected from life. Throughout the film, a mysterious motorcycle driver follows Jacqueline, appearing at random times, and watching her. This, to us, sounds very intimidating, almost strange or murderous. However, because of the situation she finds herself in, Jacqueline starts to warm to this man. And, at one point, even announces that she may love him. This shows just how desperate her disconnection has become.
After saving Jacqueline from yet more overly immature men at a swimming pool, this mysterious man finally decides to introduce himself to her. At first, he is sweet, warm and appears trustful. But, within a very short space of time, their relationship starts to evolve quickly into a strange and dangerous situation. Its result is quick and sudden, even feeling out of tone with the rest of the film, but does show how wrong people can sometimes be when it comes to sudden passion and love.
The Good Time Girls feels rebelliously charged in almost every scene. The film’s frames are filled with noir styled lighting, and its soundtrack with cool and vibrant jazz numbers. Smartly composed close-ups are often used to excellent, dynamic effect. The film is, despite its seeming lack of obvious dramatic plot, extremely well put together technically.
With its great post-modern feel, bravely enigmatic editing and engaging cast, The Good Time Girls is worth any film fans time, especially if the style of 60s new wave cinema gets you excited, and why wouldn’t it?
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2 Replies to “The Good Time Girls (1960) Claude Chabrol (Darrell Ron Tuffs)”
Although criticised at the time, I think your example gives an unusual glimpse into the everyday lives of young French people, and for that, it was unusual. Unlike many film fans, or critics, I have an admiration for Chabrol’s films, and I also like the casting of his former wife, Stephane Audran, a very ‘French’ face of the 1960’s, who starred in many of his films. She later went on to an award-winning performance in one of my favourite films, ‘Babette’s Feast’, in 1987.
Perhaps his mainstream films like ‘Le Boucher’ might be a better introduction to anyone unfamiliar with his work, but there is much to admire in ‘The Good Time Girls’..
Since his death in 2010 went more or less unnoticed by much of the film establishment, I am pleased to see this review Darrell, and hope that it will encourage your readers to seek out his films.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thanks for writing about this. Like Pete, I don’t see enough writing about Claude Chabrol (and am a huge fan of Stephane Audran!). Chabrol was an essential part of the French New Wave and his first film Le Beau Serge was really the first film to come out of it.
When it comes to Good Time Girls, it’s been a while since I saw it, but I do remember it being very tied to themes Chabrol would continue to work with – for instance, the lack of plot and instead attention paid to character and mood. I also remember it having a feminist lens, which is also something he continued to explore.