Nada  [DVD]
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Violent and cynical black comedy from Claude Chabrol about 'Nada', a small band of French terrorists who kidnap the American ambassador after one of his regular visits to a brothel. The gang leave several dead in their wake and as the police purge supects in an attempt to destroy the Nada group, the terrorists start to argue amongst themselves and violence escalates on both sides.
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His terrorists are a wildly unconvincing group of stereotypes - Fabio Testi dresses as if he were auditioning for Mad Magazine's 'Spy vs. Spy' strip, Michel Duchaussoy behaves like an absurd Kids in the Hall send up of the sociology professor from Hell, Mariangela Melato a cardboard middle-class revolutionary wannabe - who behave at every unconvincing plot turn as if they want to be caught. The corrupt authorities fare a little better, but are still painted in unconvincingly broad strokes.
It is possible to make a smart film about dumb people (cf Election), but this is a moronic film about dumb people made by people who think they're intellectuals who are talking down to the masses. In truth, were one to recast Testi, Duchaussoy and Melato with Jim Varney, Johnny Knoxville and Shannon Tweed, the result would actually be to raise the intellectual content of the film, not lower it.Read more ›
Was Chabrol doing it for a bet? Or is it that we are supposed to be shocked by the police duplicity; something harder to achieve today.
THE FILM FROM AMAZON IS 107 ,MINUTES LONG, AND THE ORIGINAL 133 MINUTES. 26 MINUTES CUT. I`TS A DAMNED SHAME.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The action here is very well paced and the acting is exactly what it should be from a great cast including Fabio Testi and Mariangela Melato (from the great Lina Wertmuller film Swept Away). Rather than lampooning the police as he did in Innocents with Dirty Hands, Chabrol here presents them as brutal workers who do everything possible to get information. The kidnappers are all disaffected, but in different ways. One is a dedicated Marxist. One is a leftist-anarchist. One is essentially a professional radical mercenary. One is a complete anarchist prone to getting drunk.
Chabrol delights in contrasting those who view activity as a luxury and those who know it is a duty--and the performance of that duty by the latter is often done with enough intensity to become violent, quite easily in fact. The Justice Minister, for example, sleeps in opulent surroundings and has a wife looking suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Likewise the ambassador dallies in a brothel with a whore wearing flimsy garments. Meanwhile the cops and the kidnappers do the dirty work that forms the meat of the story.
An interesting film by the great Claude Chabrol who does have his occasional slipups (Innocents with Dirty Hands, The Swindle, e.g.) but who in this film proves he can tell a tale that veers from his typical fare--and do it quite well indeed. Definitely recommended.
His terrorists are a wildly unconvincing group of stereotypes - Fabio Testi dresses as if he were auditioning for MAD Magazine's 'Spy vs. Spy' strip, Michel Duchaussoy behaves like an absurd KIDS IN THE HALL send up of the sociology professor from Hell, Mariangela Melato a cardboard middle-class revolutionary wannabe - who behave at every unconvincing plot turn as if they want to be caught. The corrupt authorities fare a little better, but are still painted in unconvincingly broad strokes.
It is possible to make a smart film about dumb people (cf ELECTION), but this is a moronic film about dumb people made by people who think they're intellectuals who are talking down to the masses. In truth, were one to recast Testi, Duchaussoy and Melato with Jim Varney, Johnny Knoxville and Shannon Tweed, the result would actually be to raise the intellectual content of the film, not lower it.
Chabrol might just have got away with his characters and events if he took them seriously, but his staging is so inept (the fight scenes would embarrass a kindergarten class while the shooting of the kidnapping is more inept than the kidnapping itself) and his inability to get his cast to perform with at least some approximation of recognisable human behaviour so blatant that it is actually embarrassing to watch (special mention must be made here of Duchaussoy: so very good in Chabrol's QUE LA BETE MUERE, he is stunningly bad here in a performance that is so far over the top it's back again).
Chabrol has made some fine films, but you would never guess it from this amateurish mess - a newcomer to his work would never want to see another of his films after this, which would be a great shame. Utter drivel, and a sad waste of a potentially interesting material. One star out of ten - and that's being very generous.
The DVD is the cut reissue version (27 minutes shorter), although this is no great loss, so it's hard to feel aggrieved by the fact. Ironically, as the worst title in Pathfinder's Chabrol collection, this boasts one of the best transfers: still not perfect, but a lot better than the poor standards conversions from PAL to NTSC on the likes of LA FEMME INFIDELE and LE BOUCHER - Chabrol films well worth seeing.
One of the members of the Nada gang is a university lecturer who is not so much a revoltionary as a social discontent, who is disgusted with the bourgeoisie conventions of his life. He is the most unlikely member of the Nada gang and the one Chabrol focuses on more than any other. The other members are your usual revolutionary suspects. Although one revolutionary immediately strikes you for his resemblance to Clint Eatwood, he even wears a poncho and cowboy hat. Chabrol is perhaps less interested in the political positions of his revolutionaries than he is with the reasons behind their social discontent. In his other films his discontents are married and infidelity and murder seem the only means of escape from the stifling nature of bourgoisie life so in this respect the film is a variation on Chabrols favorite themes but in Nada instead of turning to marital infidelities the bored bourgeoisie turn to revolution. In fact there are bourgeoisie on both sides of the law. The police chief and the politicians on the right are seen to be as bored with bourgeoisie life as are their counterparts on the left so it is another instance of Chabrols famous irony to have the ultimate battle be not so much about revolutionary politics but about bored bourgeoisie squaring off against each other to alleviate the tedium of their respective existences. The revolutionaries hatch a kidnapping plan in which they heist the America ambassador out of that most bourgeoisie of institutions, the brothel. From there things quickly escalate until the right and left square off like two armies at a farmhouse. Both sides seem to be engaged in a huge bit of folly and as the bodies pile up its obvious whatever intentions either side had have been lost sight of when the guns start blazing. Miraculously the lecturer and the Eastwood character escape but soon one is captured and used as bait to get to the other. Chabrol drives the political thriller to its conclusion with one last irony and thats that the Eastwood character unlike everyone else in the film actually does believe in something but its too little too late. In the end we are left with a political thriller and vision of humanity that will please the bored bourgeoisie anarchist in everyone.
All of Chabrols films have the air of formal exercises and everything that happens has an air of inevtability to it that makes Chabrol seem to be a fatalist. What makes his best pictures memorable are his characters which seem to realize their lives are determined by forces they do not control and this realization as much as anything else leads them to act with abandon. Nada comes close, the ideas are there in the plot, but no one character really captures our interest and so the film is curiously lacking in that psychological dimension that makes Chabrols best films so compelling.
What is original in the film is how it parodies that authorities of the French state, starting with the self-serving Minister of the Interior and ending with his brutal patsy, a police chief unafraid to carry out orders that are only implied. The cynicism, which tolerates and resigns the viewer to the messiest of imbroglios, is unlike anything that you can see in the clean universe of Hollywood. After the climax, with a manhunt still on and a hostage unlawfully held and tortured by the state, events take an unexpected turn that is wonderfully surprising, even funny, yet supremely awful. It is vintage Chabrol, who has been called the French Hitchcock for good reason. Virtually everyone gets theirs in one way or another.
This is very fun, but the execution of the film is somewhat clunky, and the print could be better, though this is from the mid-1970s. It isn't slick, but there is a realism to it that is honestly brutal.
Recommended. It is food for thought in this time when we are so paranoid about terrorists and too easily assume that we are in the right.