We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Another Claude Chabrol movie, another set of body bags. Periodically, the veteran French director turns to a different sort of filmmaking, assaying folkloric tales (1980’s The Proud Ones), stark dramas (1988’s Story of Women), literary adaptations (1991’s Madame Bovary), or political fables (The Comedy of Power, his latest). The meat of his 48-year career, however, is the murder thriller, sometimes shocking but never entirely serious. (Like his great model, Alfred Hitchcock, Chabrol always finds human evil at least a little amusing.) The classic ingredients include a provincial setting, a suffocating family, a dangerous woman, and a flummoxed representative of the bourgeoisie. Made before The Comedy of Power, but only now getting a U.S. release, The Bridesmaid has all those things, plus a characteristic source: a novel by British mystery author Ruth Rendell, here adapted by Chabrol and co-writer Pierre Leccia. In a small, quiet city near Paris, buttoned-down renovation-firm account executive Philippe (Benoît Magimel) still lives with his mother (Aurore Clément) and two sisters. As a salesman, Philippe has a way with older women; he also maintains an unusually intense relationship with a longtime family treasure, a stone bust of a woman that, near the beginning of the film, his mother impulsively gives away to an unworthy recipient. Philippe lacks a girlfriend, so he’s surprised but pleased to attract the attention of sexy, unpredictable Senta (Laura Smet), a bridesmaid at his sister’s wedding. The two begin an intense affair, but Philippe breaks it off after Senta says they each should prove their love for the other by killing someone. Powerfully drawn back to Senta, Philippe decides to please her by taking credit for a murder he didn’t commit. But what will that inspire Senta to do? And might her action, despite Philippe’s sense of propriety, actually be something that he secretly wanted done? The plot offers no great surprises, and the themes none at all, but everything’s handled with crisp authority. This is not among the director’s more haunting works, but it is an effective, and typically perverse, entertainment.—Mark Jenkins