The Good Girls

The Good Girls ★★★★½

The complexities of youth burst from the Parisian shops and offices of necessity, to satisfy their thirst for expression on the city streets. 

Claude Chabrol’s “The Good Girls” is as much a coming of age as it is a coming of emotion. A mix between melodrama, comedy, and social tragedy, it lacks in self-identity just as much as its own characters. And that, is what makes the film an essential work of Nouvelle Vague cinema. 

Chabrol’s film arrived in theatres the same year as Luchino Visconti’s “Rocco and his Brothers;” making the two somewhat twin entries, straddling the line between neorealism and… something new entirely. 

Both are high-intensity pieces of sentiment and sensation. Where “Rocco” centers around a Milanese family, “Good Girls” revolves around the informal unit formed by a group of shop girls in Paris. The brothers do not have the social mobility to hide behind any delusions except the most precarious and prone to implosion. The girls have just enough status to pull a veil of illusion only to conceal their own eyes - if nobody else’s. 

Although… the behaviours of the four shop girls, though they are politely dressed in frocks and hats, is no less rude than that of the brawling “Rocco” brothers. In one scene, Chabrol contrasts the girls’ yowling to that of monkeys in a zoo, the later of whom (that is, the monkeys) are generally better behaved. 

So, in self-liberation, the girls receive the immaterial existence that they seem to so desire. 

They dream as much of danger as they do of leisure. There is little cohesion to their actions, other than the perpetual corruption of love into a general lust for anything, everything, something. Even the Paris streets cannot hope to contain such wanting.

Where to Begin: French New Wave

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