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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Fool's Mate (1956)



Reviews and Comments

Fool's Mate is a short film that's interesting for being Jacques Rivette's first directorial effort, and furthermore has Claude Chabrol, before he started directing his own films, as one of the screenwriters. The rhythms of the French New Wave are in evidence here, and even though the plot is rigidly structured, the individual scenes have that loose feeling of freedom the New Wave would perfect.

During the opening credits, a quick chess game is played where one player beats the other with a variation of what's known as "Fool's Mate" -- a quick checkmating trap that beginners tend to fall for. A narrator explains this, and then the film shows us a young woman plotting a scheme to keep a fur coat her lover has given her without her husband learning of the affair. Is she preparing a Fool's Mate, or will she succumb to one?

The outcome is not difficult to guess, and that makes it all the more problematic when the film isn't as efficient and incisive as it could be about delivering the final blow. Nonetheless, this is a satisfying short film beyond being merely a great opportunity to see two French New Wave masters cutting their teeth.