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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is it, 4 July 2010
This review is from: Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
I saw two movies at the tail end of 2009, released a week apart in UK cinemas, both of which depicted something that might have shaped the history of entertainment but were doomed to never be. The first was Michael Jackson's This Is It, the second, fortunately for this review, was Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno. What were the chances of these two films having anything in common, let alone sharing something so integral to their being? For, despite the titles, neither Jacko nor Clouzot would get to present these features to us.

Kenny Ortega assembled enough fascinating footage to give us a hint of the, frankly unexpected, wonders that Jackson had in store if his heart had allowed it, but This Is It didn't work quite as it should have as a film in its own right. Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea, on the other hand, have compiled something altogether more artful with H-GC's Inferno: part reconstruction, part documentary and part original. We have the making of Clouzot's ambitious film, L'Enfer, as told by those who were there (and others who weren't) and the reassembling of the original footage spliced with actors filling in the gaps with readings to give us something approaching the whole picture.

Unlike the King of Pop, Clouzot would survive the heart attack he suffered during the making of his potential masterpiece but the film would not. But would this psychological study of marital jealousy and descent into madness have been his masterpiece? As someone who has spent years believing Wages of Fear to be close to the pinnacle of cinema, the images seen here are, even today, startling in their scope and technique. Columbia's unlimited budget and Clouzot's unlimited imagination produced an unstoppable creative force. Or so it seemed until the film was indeed stopped in its tracks and abandoned incomplete. This status may have sealed its reputation but it could have been so much bigger if it had been completed. You will not feel inclined to argue after watching this DVD.

In 1994 Claude Chabrol took Clouzot's script and made his own version of L'Enfer (also known as Hell). It's by no means a poor film and absolutely worth investigation, but for purists it's like watching Usher perform Billie Jean, or watching William Friedkin's Sorcerer for that matter. Bromberg and Medrea's film returns the script to its rightful owner and this is as authoritative an account of the film and its production as we can realistically wish for.

Distributor Park Circus is a welcome newcomer to the DVD market. While not being able to match boutique US label Criterion in terms of packaging or bonus content, they share a common taste in film. H-GC's Inferno is exactly the kind of release I'd expect to be picked up by Criterion, but at the moment that is not the case. And Park Circus deserves praise for its bonus content, including an extra hour-long documentary called 'They Saw The inferno', which features additional unseen footage. The packaging is satisfying as well. It even comes in a very French Nouvelle Vague pink amaray case with good framing of the original poster image, although I'm not convinced by Park Circus's decision to opt for a uniform font for all their titles. Oh well, I'm hardy going to remove any of the fully deserved five stars for that. Chamone!
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