Checkmate ★★★½

Le Coup du Berger (AKA Checkmate but better translated as Fool's Mate, though literally the Shepherd's) is a 28-minute short from the "father of the French New Wave" Jacques Rivette that essentially plays as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents without the murder. Referencing a chess move any beginner will have fallen for at least once (I relate), in which the queen and a bishop (in French, a fool) are used to checkmate the opponent in very few moves. The intrigue: A woman gets an expensive gift from her lover and faces the problem of how to keep it without her husband asking too many questions. Her gambit is clever, but is her husband, in fact, a beginner? Or is she the fool and he the mate implied by the title rather than the opposite? Or in French, who is leading (shepherding) whom, or does the sheep stray? Though it's a cerebral little film typical of the New Wave (of which some say this is the first example), it provides a fun puzzle. Fans of cinema may further derive some enjoyment from spotting New Wave adepts like Cabrol, Truffaut and Godard as background extras in the party scene.