The Third Lover

The Third Lover ★★★★★

“The Third Lover” of Claude Chabrol’s film refers to an interloping pretender of a writer who ingratiates himself into a rich German couple’s lives. It could also refer to Chabrol himself - the great emulator of Alfred Hitchcock, now trying to consume the master. 

While every crevice of “Lover” drips in the influence of Hitchcock, the film’s foundation is provided by Shakespeare. The plot more or less follows “Othello,” with a jealous French writer taking the role of the scheming Iago; warping the narrative around his justification for undoing the otherwise stable marriage he intrudes upon. 

The blending of the Iago insert’s Shakespearean soliloquy into a noir-style voiceover is an ingenious manipulation by Chabrol. The choice elevates the obsession of the pretending Frenchman to the sort of grandiose melodrama he sees the events unfolding as within his own mind. 

Where Chabrol’s earlier works had something of the frenzied youthful chaos characteristic of the Nouvelle Vague, it is in “Lover” where it becomes clear the director’s path will diverge from that of his peers. “Lover” belongs more to the noir and Hitchcockian tradition than it does the Nouvelle Vague. Like its protagonist, it inhabits two worlds; clearly an interloper in one, while being unmistakably of the other, once all its facades fade away. 

While “Lover” arrived a half decade after the publishing of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” it portends later cinematic incarnations of the title character immaculately. In a particular scene during which Jacques Charrier’s French author plays at house inside the home of those from whom he is parasitizing, there are flashes of both Delon and Damon in his eyes. 

They are only another set of masks worn by an aspiring author; wielded with the same fluidity and aptitude as Chabrol ascribed himself with Hitchcock’s visage.

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