Saturday, August 25, 2018

On Netflix streaming, Camille Bordes-Resnais and Alexis Lecaye's very dark, then-and-now revenge series, THE CHALET

When I first read the description of the French Netflix series, THE CHALET (which, fortunately, the streaming service has since rewritten), it sounded like a fairly typical, Agatha Christie-level, And Then There Were None rip-off. Instead, it is a much darker, deeper exploration of the kind of appalling greed and us-versus-them mentality that can rob people of any trace of humanity.

This is an extremely well-executed example of a story -- puzzling, mysterious, suspenseful and exciting -- of the what's-going-on and why? variety that involves two generations and spans time periods that range over twenty years.

The build is slow, but steadily fascinating, as a family from the big city comes to a tiny village set in a gorgeous mountain location. The father (Manuel Blanc, above) is a writer working on his second novel, with his wife, young son and even younger daughter (below) accompanying him.

The village is insular to a fault, and the villagers, some of whom are seen below, do not appreciate these intruders, who hope to relocate here. Tourists are one thing -- they help pay the bills -- but something permanent? That is quite another matter.

That's the past, taking place in 1997. The present, 2017, sees a kind of "reunion" happening, as the children of the past (below and further below), now grown into young adulthood, decide to spend a long weekend together.

As we soon learn, revenge is on someone's mind. But for what, exactly? All your questions are eventually answered, and very well, and the answers unveil some of the darkest, ugliest impulses and actions of which we humans seems capable.

In the large ensemble cast, there are at least a dozen major players, with each actor cast extremely well cast and delivering a first-rate performance. One of the great strengths of this series is how much we come to like and understand so many of these characters. Consequently, when we lose them, this loss genuinely registers. (This is nothing like the usual, pick-off-the teenagers-one-by-one slasher movie.)

The single character we feel the least for -- and for good reason -- is the grown-up (sort of) Sebastian, played with undiminished ferocity and cluelessness by the excellent Nicolas Gob, above.

Most of the actors here seemed new to me, save Thierry Godard (above), who has starred in the popular French series Spiral and A French Village. But I hope to see all of them again, as well as view whatever new work Camille Bordes-Resnais, the director/co-writer (with Alexis Lecaye), comes up with.

Meanwhile, The Chalet -- lasting six episodes, each one around 52 minutes -- should prove a must for fans of sad, unsettling mystery/revenge tales. It streams now via Netflix.

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