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H.G. Clouzot Boxset [DVD]
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3-feature set of re-mastered classics from the controversial French master Henri Georges Clouzot. The only director to be banned by both the Nazis and, after liberation, his own French church and government, Clouzot suffered not a bit for this dubious honour. His films are widely held as masterpieces of postwar French cinema and he's certainly one of its most successful cinematic exports. 'Le Corbeau' (1943) is Clouzot's dark and subversive study of human nature starring Pierre Fresnay and Ginette Leclerc. When a series of poison-pen letters signed 'Le Corbeau' (The Raven) appears denouncing several prominent members of society a wave of hysteria sweeps the small provincial town of St Robin. Starting with the village doctor, the slow sinister trickle of letters soon becomes a flood and no one is safe from the malicious accusations, which include abortion and drug addiction. In 'Quai Des Orferves' (1947) Jenny Martineau (Suzy Delair), accompanied on stage by her husband Maurice (Bernand Blier), is an aspiring Music Hall performer. Her ambitions are hampered by the jealousies of the well-meaning Maurice, whose suspicions are particularly aroused by elderly entrepreneur Georges Brignon (Charles Dullin) with whose help Jenny thinks she can find fame. When Brignon is found murdered having recently entertained Jenny against her husband's express wishes, Maurice becomes the prime suspect. 'The Wages Of Fear' (1953) is Clouzot's Cannes-winner set in the South American jungle where supplies of nitro-glycerine are urgently needed at a remote oil field. The unscrupulous American oil company pays four out-of-work men (Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli and Peter Van Eyck) to deliver the delicate and deadly supplies in two hulking trucks. A tense rivalry quickly develops between the two sets of drivers; a tension magnified a thousand fold by the unforgiving heat, the lure of filthy lucre and the rough and rocky roads where the slightest jolt could result in agonizing death.
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Clouzot did not present a comfortable personality. Unlike, say, Jean Renoir, he was an opportunist, even prepared to work with the Nazi/French Continental Films. But having made Le Corbeau for the company his films were banned. Even after the War Clouzot had difficulty finding work as his collaborative past was held against him. Fortunately two of his post war works are represented here: Quai Des Orfevres and Wages Of Fear. It is hardly surprising that Le Corbeau was banned. The story concerning an anonymous letter writer who stirs up a rural village to heights of extreme paranoia may well have reflected the reality of Nazi occupied France.
It is a shame that Clouzot is compared to Hitchcock because nothing in this collection suggests that. The nearest comparison I can think of is Fritz Lang, especially with Le Corbeau.
Quai Des Orfevres may seem like a run-of-the-mill detective Noir film, but Inspector Antoine seems as if he would have been right at home working for the Vichy. The story pulls no punches and there is hardly a likable character in the film in a film that openly deals with the sordidness of post-war France.
Wages Of Fear is, perhaps, Clouzot's most famous film and is one of the greatest films of all time. The story seems mundane: when they are on the skids people will risk anything in order to survive.Read more ›
This, of course, was the film that earned Clouzot a lasting reputation as a collaborator - made for the infamous German Continental films, it was attacked by both the Nazis for discouraging the French from informing (their main source of information during the occupation) and the resistance for attacking the French moral character. Of the two, it's pretty obvious the Nazis were on the right track. Even though the Germans are conspicuous by their absence, it makes clear that the anonymous informer/s are undermining solidarity and making the town easy prey for predators (it is implicit in the film that the Raven is not the only poison-pen writer in the town as a veritable flock of Ravens emerge).
The suspense comes not from the Raven's identity, which is blindingly obvious in this era of double-endings but must have seemed groundbreaking at the time, but from what damage the Raven will do next.Read more ›