Nightcap ★★★

“Keeping up appearances is all that counts.” If Chabrol and Huppert ultimately achieve a devastating portrait of Mika’s terribly elegant sociopathy, left soul-crushingly alone after all her cruel games, the narrative web that gets us there feels strangely too flimsy to support the weight of the final image. High-society gossip and an esteemed chocolatier’s industrial machinations and a paternal mystery and inter-familial emotional jealousies on the sunny banks of Lac Léman; playing out like the stuff of light farce rather than clinical bourgeois dissection. Indeed, the film seems curiously uninterested in exploring why Mika does what she does, just gleefully gawking at the nasty deliciousness of the fact that she’s doing it; Chabrol largely reducing his gaze to that of one of the chattering lakeside ladies who lunch. Lang and Renoir get referenced via a couple of VHS tapes picked up from the video store, hints of other alternatives that might have made the film’s admittedly unforgettable climax mean even more. “Instead of loving, I say ‘I love you,’ and people believe me.”