Alice or the Last Escapade (1977)

A French surrealistic retelling of Alice in Wonderland with Sylvia Kristel in the lead? It’s as if a message from space was sent directly to my brain, demanding that I stop whatever I was planning and sit inches from my TV and yelling out every translated word via closed captioning.

Alice Caroll is leaving her husband, who she has grown to hate, driving through the countryside until her windshield cracks and she ends up at an old house. It seems she’s been expected and is asked to stay overnight. The next morning, the servants are all gone and her car is fixed, but she can’t find the way out.

She tries to walk away from the house and still can’t escape when a young man tells her to accept her fate. After staying a second night, she finally gets away in her car down the pathway before she crashes her car. As Jason Mantzoukas would say, “This is a Jacob’s Ladder scenario.”

Claude Chabrol — the “French Hitchcock” — dedicated this film to Fritz Lang and it’s a visual essay of Kristel navigating scenery, of the futility of existence, of trying to navigate life’s path without any answers. It’s gorgeous yet icy and mysterious, much like the visage of Chabrol’s muse her, Kristel.

I’d compare this to 1970’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, as this is an absolute film, one that you experience on an emotional — and not rational — basis. It’s my first exposure to Chabrol, but I know it will not be my last.

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