Written and directed by Jean-Denis Bonan, Paris, in the 1960s. A series of crimes troubles the public tranquillity. On March 22, 1968, Hélène Picard, a prostitute sentenced to death two years before for several murders, is killed by executioner Louis Guilbeau. Immediately, the violent crimes, similar to Hélène’s ones, go on again. In parallel, Louis is having an affair with the policewoman in charge of the investigation. What are the obscure relations hidden behind the executioner and the mysterious killer? Who is this dark man in reality?. Starring: Claude Merlin, Solange Pradel, Myriam Mézières, Jackie Raynal and Catherine Deville.
Considering that A Woman Kills is a lost film, finally being restored, it’s interesting that you could easily draw a line from Jean-Denis Bonan’s to a lot of the crime, detective, murder films in the decades that followed. It’s experimental for its time and it’s overflowing with energy both in pace and creativity. It immediately has a cult vibe, it’s scrappy and chaotic, trying to create an artistic side at the same time that it’s almost leaning towards being exploitative and sleazy. It’s a very strange mix and it does not stop to take a breath so it won’t work for everyone. There’s a touch to its atmosphere that feels like it’s emulating fetishism, it’s definitely one aimed at a male audience.
Its story is a great basis for any crime film, mystery and murder but it moves in such a frenzy that it’s difficult to get into it. It’s almost distracted in the progression, it’s moving around all over the place but not actually going that far. The story itself is quite simple and it doesn’t take a detective to figure out where it’s going. The resolution is perhaps one that again, won’t work for every viewer, hitting a rather stereotypical note.
Claude Merlin leads with a classically intense energy, he holds the perfect wild eyes and dark potential. It’s another reason why you quickly get the sense of where this story is going because there’s just something about him that feels untrustworthy. It feels as though we never really get a chance to get to know any of the other characters which is a shame. Solange Pradel comes closest but she’s still a fleeting presence, it would have been a huge strength to the film, especially being made in the 1960s to strengthen her character and push her to the forefront. It was ahead of its time in some ways but exactly of its time in others.
A Woman Kills has some good ingredients but makes it slightly difficult to appreciate them when it’s moving with such a frenzied pace. It’s a hectic blend of genres and styles, mixing together a cult style horror to noir detective story and classic French cinema. It doesn’t quite give its audience the time to invest in its story before it’s onto the next scene but at the same time, it’s relatively easy to know where it’s going. It’s surprising in its more artistic, creative embellishments and really throws itself into the style but doesn’t quite have enough suspense in the story to balance out the chaos.