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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Clouseau than Clouzot, 17 Sep 2004
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Les Espions [DVD] (DVD)
From the director of the superb 'Wages of Fear,' 'Les Diaboliques,' 'Le Corbeau/the Raven' and 'Quai des Orfevres,' this is definitely something of a disappointment, albeit certainly a fascinating one. Entertaining and interesting, yes, but more Clouseau than Clouzot, after a good start it turns into a remarkably broad and at times joyously unsubtle parody of espionage and political ideology set in a nursing home. There's no suspense, merely an increasingly absurd succession of twists and outrageous characters, from Martita Hunt's vicious spy/nursing sister to Peter Ustinov's kleptomaniac/Russian spy via Sam Jaffe's paranoid Shakespeare teacher/CIA man, all after the mystery patient (Curd Jurgens in pajamas and sunglasses in a shuttered room) who may be a key scientist. And that's not mentioning the convention of ocarina players, the Germanic bartender or the garbage men who make no secret of spying on the establishment, or Vera Clouzot's mute mental patient...
More theatre of the Absurd than thriller, this must have mystified and confounded Clouzot's fans when it originally came out. It is full of ridiculously funny moments, at times seeming almost a forerunner of The Prisoner, but it does ultimately overstay its welcome. Not exactly a failure but certainly not a success, file under interesting curiosity.

The widescreen transfer is very good, although the extras are misleading - aside from a stills gallery and biographies, the trailer is actually for Les Diaboliques!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatric clinic setting - the film is the one with MPD, 17 Aug 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Les Espions [DVD] (DVD)
Enjoyable but....
It does not perhaps seem surprising that this film, despite being the work of one the most renowned of French directors and benefiting from quality performances from a number of big name actors, seems to have passed into relative obscurity. One of the principal factors contributing to this is likely the fact that in a single viewing at least (i.e. the originally available cinematic experience prior to video/DVD) the scenario and intentions of the film are largely perplexing. Essentially the film seems to be suffering from an identity crisis or a daring attempt to mix two disparate, largely incompatible genres that does not quite come off. The opening scene allows that a more or less conventional Cold-War espionage drama unfold , however things then quickly develop into something apparently completely different, akin to the few 'Theatre of the Absurd' plays that I now vaguely remember reading, when a host of incongruous and highly 'unreal' secret-agents with similarly 'unreal' dialogue enter the fray. Some characters/themes here slightly reminiscent of Cocteau's Orfree underworld characters - ie. grandiose self-important sarcastic comments directed at the main character regarding his nave 'little-man' ignorance of a wider, more schrewd world behind-the-scenes etc. This would be all well and good except that towards the latter third of the film things begin to veer back almost as if by means of some kind of control-desk mixer knob towards more conventional spy-drama territory. A further unfortunate twist, unfortunate since most of the audience will have anticipated this possibility way back and hoped it would not prove such an 'old chestnut' ending, seems to be introduced towards the films non-conclusion but I for one was left with a bemused squint on my face as the word FIN hit the screen!
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Les Espions [DVD]
Les Espions [DVD] by Henri-Georges Clouzot (DVD - 2003)
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