Checkmate ★★★½

#52 of 100 in my Top 100 Directors Challenge

This short B&W romantic comedy from French writer-director Jacques Rivette made an appropriate follow-up to my viewing of "Pawn Sacrifice" (2014). The title refers to "Scholar's Mate," a quick form of checkmate often used against beginners, sometimes called "Four-Move Checkmate" or "Fool's Mate." However, the film is less about chess and more about adultery.

Virginie Vitry plays a wife named Claire, who is cheating on her husband Jean (Jacques Doniol-Valcroze). Her lover Claude (Jean-Claude Brialy) buys her a full-length mink coat as a present, which that raises the problem of how to hide its source from hubby. But Claire has a plan. They put the fur in a suitcase and store it in a locker at the train station. She'll tell Jean she found the left-luggage receipt in a taxi.

As it turns out, Jean couldn't be less interested in the receipt. He tells her to throw it away; the owner will show up at the station to claim it in due course. But she insists on knowing what it is. She convinces him to go to the station the next morning and find out. And that evening he comes home with the suitcase, but when he opens it....!?! Be ready for a great twist resulting in checkmate.

Some cinema historians claim this film was the harbinger of the French New Wave, and they point to the party scene at the end in which Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and François Truffaut all appear in the same room as guests. In fact, Chabrol's own apartment in Paris, France was used for the filming. And as another curio, although uncredited, British author Roald Dahl helped out with the story.