Cinema: The Futility Shop

Les Bonnes Femmes, made six years ago and presumably pigeonholed as insufficiently commercial, seems to be a film that is handicapped only by simple integrity. Its downbeat theme works against mass popularity, and Director Claude Chabrol strong-mindedly shuns the showy amateurism that occasionally passes for avant-garde chic. Instead, breathing a quick sense of verity into a perceptive screenplay by Paul Gégauff, Chabrol subtly spells out the humor, horror and futility in the lives of four unextraordinary Parisian shopgirls.

All four work behind the counter in an electrical-supply store, watching the clock, sizing up customers, idly assessing every salesman or delivery boy, and...

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